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.
9 thoughts on “Prepare Ye: the We Generation is Upon Us.”
I had thought Enterprise 2.0 adoption justified on GenYers (Millennials) was being overhyped by the industry. However after hearing several of the real world case study presenters at the Boston conference and your post I’m starting to change my view.
I think Don Burke of the CIA was right when he said ‘at no other time has the rate of technological change been so rapid within a life time.’ The problem is the GenYers and the innovative Web2.0 start-ups are going so fast most enterprise hierarchies and their technology suppliers cannot currently keep-up. By time enterprises get there the GenYers may well have moved on. The change needed is much more that just technology and a short term initiative.
Mike- you’re not alone. Many of our client companies share the same philosophy as yours. Until we can slightly modify your sentence to become “…that these tools have greatly enhanced OUR PROFITs through networking with smart people all over the world” will we see large numbers of enterprises waking up to the benefits of social networking and collaboration. It’s a bit of a catch-22. Also, think carefully about what you said. Are your children more knowledgeable about technology than you are? I hope not! The difference is they’re more comfortable with technology as a means to interact, create, produce, and share. Computer/communications technology is a part of their world the way, say, electricity and refrigeration was a part of our childhoods.
I am in my 40’s and consider myself extremely technically savvy (I am a chief architect). My kids are 12 and 10. When I was their age, I knew nothing about technology. My kids are unbelievably knowledgeable about technology and their generation has such a huge head start that I can only imagine how they will change the world when the enter the workforce. I have started using many social networking tools over the past two years to try to understand the value that the younger generations are seeing in the tools. The end result is that these tools have greatly enhanced my career through networking with smart people all over the world. The irony is that my company sees no value in these tools and many of them are not even aware of what is available. We need to ask ourselves, if we do not embrace these tools, are we making ourselves outdated and irrelevant?
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