The surprising power of checklists

This is the first in our Life Hacks series, which aims to provide different insights into how to make your life simpler and more enjoyable.

In a world where everyone is multitasking and everything is instant, the potential for inefficiency and mistakes is astronomical. We’re constantly checking email while scrolling through our social media news feeds, all while catching up on the latest season of our favorite TV shows. Consequently, some tasks that we truly mean to do slip from our minds. In recent years, this had started to become a huge problem for me. As a busy college student trying to balance schoolwork, volunteering, and friends, I often found myself saying that aggravating phrase, “Oh man, I forgot.” Maybe you know the feeling. Enter the power of the checklist.

The famed B-17 checklist

Now, if you’re at all like me, you’re probably skeptical. After all, how could a measly checklist really be that helpful? Well, let me provide you with some evidence to back up the hype. In The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande writes extensively about (you guessed it!) the incredible difference that a checklist can make. To illustrate his point, he tells the story of the B-17’s first test flight. The year was 1935, and the B-17 plane was unlike any other aircraft that had ever existed. It could fly faster and farther than its contemporaries, and it could also sustain a much larger payload. Truly, it was the most complex and revolutionary aircraft of its day. And that was precisely the problem. On its maiden voyage, the pilot had “forgotten to release a new locking mechanism on the elevator and rudder controls,” which caused the plane to crash and a couple members of the crew to lose their lives. In response, the US Army decided to make one simple change. Yep, a checklist. The result? According to Gawande, with the help of a handy checklist, the pilots went on to fly the B-17 “a total of 1.8 million miles without one accident.” Pretty powerful stuff for a checklist. But wait, checklists didn’t just save the day for the Army; they also have saved the lives of numerous hospital patients. In fact, experimental studies have found that checklists cut the rate of death in half and the rate of complications from 11% to 7%. 

Pretty convincing, right? We thought so, too. At Google, we use checklists all the time. For instance, when a manager receives a new employee (Noogler) on her team, she is provided with a checklist of different actions she should take to help her Noogler get up to speed with the team. Altogether, the results have been astounding: Nooglers whose managers followed this checklist became fully effective 25% faster than their peers. So, case closed: Checklists work, and they work really well. 
While you may not be flying B-17s or operating on patients, you can still use checklists to help improve your life. Save yourself the time and stress. Make a checklist.

Posted by Steven Claunch, Online Hiring and Insights Team

Computational Thinking for Educators

Have you ever thought about how you would you map the entire human DNA sequence? It is really possible that William Shakespeare wrote all of the plays that bear his name? What about designing a computer program that creates novel music compositions?

All of the skills needed to answer these questions make up what we consider computational thinking (CT), a problem solving technique that software engineers at Google and elsewhere apply all the time to write the programs that underlay the computer applications you use every day, including search, Gmail and Google Maps. Not only is this 21st century skill critical to being successful in the field of computer science, it’s also increasingly important to several careers outside of our industry and computer science, given the ubiquity of technology in our lives today.

As a result, educators are using Computational Thinking in their disciplines around the world. Whether they teach math, science, or humanities, computational thinking can be a powerful addition to classroom activities. By integrating computational thinking skills across subjects, we can help prepare all students to contribute new solutions to seemingly impossible problems!

Our new online course, Computational Thinking for Educators, is free and intended for anyone  working with students ages 13 to  18, who is interested in enhancing  their teaching with creative thinking and problem solving. We believe all students should learn computational thinking, regardless of subject, age or access to technology in the classroom. If our students are technology creators, equipped with computational skills, they’ll be able to participate and position themselves professionally in a globalized society, helping to solve the biggest challenges using creativity.

Sound interesting? Join us and other educators around the world as we take on Computational Thinking for Educators. This  course will run from July 15-September 30, 2015.  

Posted by Aida Martinez, Program Manager, Emerging Markets Team

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This summer, we at the Google Student Blog are reemphasizing our commitment to gathering feedback from our readers. Consequently, we have designed a brief feedback form specifically for the Google Student Blog. Our hope is that this will enable each of…

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2015 Google Europe Scholarship for Students with Disabilities

As part of Google’s ongoing commitment to advancing computing and technology, we are pleased to provide scholarships to encourage students to excel in their studies and become active role models and leaders. In partnership with EmployAbility, we are excited to announce this year’s recipients of The Google Europe Scholarship for Students with Disabilities.

Please join us in congratulating the following recipients, along with the universities they attend:

  • Alexandra Tzilivaki, IMBB FORTH and University of Crete, Greece
  • Benno Ommerborn, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany
  • Anna Kuosmanen, University in Helsinki, Finland
  • Daniel Hershcovich, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
  • Tania Bailoni, University of Trento, Italy
  • Yael Hirshovitz-Shieber, Amsterdam University College, Netherlands
  • Hrayr Harutyunyan, Yerevan State University, Armenia
  • Rachael Botham, University of Bath, United Kingdom
  • Robin Thompson, Newcastle University, United Kingdom
  • Cătălina Mărănduc, Al. I. Cuza University, Romania

Each scholar will receive 7,000 Euros to help them with their studies for the 2015/2016 academic year. All scholars have been selected based on their passion for Computer Science, academic achievement, leadership, and technical accomplishments.

Posted by Maya Tudor, EMEA Diversity Scholarships Program Manager

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