So, yeah. I wanted to change the world in my 20s. In some ways, I thought I could with Unix and my first Mac. But, mostly, I just ended up talking about it a lot to anyone who cared to listen. Today’s 20-somethings have the tools to effect change like I never did. They have instantaneous access to information, strong social networks with which to groupthink and self-organize, and a somewhat unbridled sense of optimism that everything is possible and within their reach. I grew up in the Me Generation of the Reagan era and although we excelled at the selfish art of Machiavellian achievement, in the end it took my generation down a path that led to, well, the S&L scandal, Enron, one-dot-oh greed, and now, the subprime meltdown. Our narcissism is our legacy.
Lately, there’s been some grousing about how the GenYers (Millennials) are overhyped. I disagree. I don’t think we’re talking enough about the next generation of “we-wired” digital immigrants. I know our clients are looking at this demographic set seriously. The digitally-astute army that’s about to descend on the corridors of power in corporations around the world brings with it a welcome promise of radical change and constructive disruption.
Larry Dignan, a fellow irregular, wrote recently,
“So what really happens when these Millennials run into IT departments at large corporations where they are most likely to work? They will run into a brick wall and realize that it makes sense to centralize some IT functions. They’ll realize Web 2.0 is insecure. They’ll realize you can’t share intellectual property on Twitter. They’ll realize that remote data wiping is pretty cool when you lose your phone. Bottom line: If there’s any touchy feeling collision course between Millennials and business, the latter will win.
Why? Ultimately these people have to get jobs–and often these jobs are at places like Johnson & Johnson and General Electric. Sorry folks you won’t be bringing your own management practices–and latest greatest Web 2.0 apps–to those places.”
As it turns out, we talk to companies like GE and J&J all the time. We’re conducting a large research project right now on “Redefining Employee Computing” with 24 member corporations, many of them global– half are in the Fortune 100 (of those, 6 are in the top 50 and 3 are in the top 10). I can assure you that the generational “collide” is a high priority board room and management issue. It’s so strategic, many corporations are preemptively prepping to accommodate the new workforce and rethink their old school management processes.
Here is CTO, Greg Simpson of GE talking about how GE views the Millennials.