Tag Archives: Generation Y

Computer says yes! I love IT managers but…

As Nick Carr predicted in The Big Switch, some of our most familiar career paths are being rendered obsolete  by technology: the IT manager is one who may have little more to do than doodle on post-it notes in the office of the future.

Currently, the IT department is a powerful gatekeeper. When I was doing the research for Monkeys with Typewriters (and increasingly since), the IT department was all too often cited as a major stumbling block when it came to introducing new, social technologies across the workplace. As one senior civil servant bluntly (and grumpily) put it, 

“The IT department’s agenda is to fulfil their aims.  It's not to support us in our aims.  So if you ask can I do this or not, if I take this route it would be a lot of work for them.  The best route is no work for them at all so they would choose no.  Always choose no.”

But as we know, the walls are coming down. And, once the impact of the digitally-literate generation taken hold, there’s more chance we’ll get the social organisations we strive for.  Smart employers will see this change coming, and embrace it:

“To maximise efficiency among tech savvy workers,” says trend forecaster William Higham, “companies will need to adopt new working practices. Restrictions on personal technology use will need to be reassessed. So too will the current practice of relying on traditional IT departments for input on new technology resources, as knowledge is democratised across departments by the experience of personal use.”

Tom Standage, The Economist’s Digital Editor, makes a similar point when talking specifically about social media: “People who are entering the workforce now think that this is how software works. Some managers talk about Facebook and other [social] networks as being time wasters, but in fact the opposite is true. This is the way that software is increasingly going to look, and that will impact on the way companies are run, because when you have a general discussion about things on a Facebook “wall”, you tend to get much less email and much less wasted time.”

So, time to stop restricting your employees in their use of social media, and start seeing it as a training investment.

Photo: Amarand Agasi

Here’s to us: the pioneers!

We’re constantly hearing about the ‘Net generation, digital natives and web-savvy teenagers. There’s wistfulness and a touch of envy as we talk about young people’s ability to deal competently with all sorts of techno-gadgets, and to move with apparent ease between online and offline worlds.

The under ‘30s, we’re frequently told, take to digital technology like ducks to water, free of the inhibitions and hang ups their parents, grandparents and older siblings might have. They are born with digital technology in their DNA while we, the older generation, are doomed to sit awkwardly on the sidelines. The young, it’s implied, represent funky, state-of-the-art new builds while we are the dated Victorian terrace house – charming, perhaps, but decidedly quaint, and in need of some serious retro-fitting.

But Xers and Baby Boomers have something no other generations can have. We sit on the cusp. We remember what it was like to communicate without mobile phones, to carry out research without the internet and to sustain friendships without social networks. Like Elizabethan courtiers experiencing their first taste of sugar, we are able to truly appreciate the miracle we have at our fingertips.

On Computer Weekly’s Social Enterprise blog, Suw Charman-Anderson warns businesses against the perils of focusing too much on the younger generation while “ignor[ing] the vast pool of older tech-literate people who have grown up with the technology and who understand it in their bones.”

I agree – the older generations have a special something: we are the pioneers and no-one can ever take that from us. And we continue to forge new frontiers every day.

Photo credit: Christian Davies