Back in August, I blogged about the new generation of employee.
This week, I joined a presentation with JP Rangaswami to talk about the impact of technology on our lives, and the subject of Gen Y and the new generation of staff came up again.
For those of you who don’t know JP, he describes himself as “an accidental technologist” and is known by folks like me as a bit of a thought leader when it comes to future tech.
JP will be addressing the Financial Services Club next February and, to give you a flavour of his thinking, I’ve given his speech a mashup with my own thoughts and thought it worth sharing here.
How is technology changing our lives?
In the 1960s, technology focused upon delivering structured information to the internal consumer via mainframes.
In the 1980s, technology had moved to producing structured information for and between internal consumers via minicomputers and PCs.
By the 1990s, technology had developed into delivering unstructured information to any consumer through the worldwide web.
And today, technology focuses upon the production of unstructured information for any consumer using social networking.
In other words, we have moved from structured to unstructured information, and from company usage to anyone using technology.
The future will be one where unstructured information used by anyone on the planet will be related and analysed, so that information becomes intuitive.
The thing is that this changes our thinking dramatically. For example, the millennial (also known as the Generation Y or Gen-Y, and born between 1982 and 1995) is now our mainstream new hire employee, as they're in their 20s now.
This generation has grown up without ever wondering where technology came from or how to use it. They are not considering technology to be magical. It is just there.
That is why our generation talk about digital cameras; they just talk about taking a picture on the mobile.
Our generation talk about taping things; they just TiVo.
We talk about having to call someone; they Skype.
We talk about sending a letter or email; they just text and message.
We arrange a social evening in real worlds; they meet virtually.
The new workforce use technology at home that is far better than the technology you give them at work, and telling this generation to use your office systems is a bit like trying to force them to wear an office uniform.
It just doesn’t happen.
Their systems are as personal to them as our clothes are to us.
You cannot define their work tech, and separate it from their home tech.
That just does not work.
Equally, they have no idea about backup, security, structure and performance of technologies.
They just know it’s there and it works.
When it doesn’t, they dump it.
This generation does not worry about passwords.
If they get locked out of their account, they just create another one.
And this generation would not imagine paying $10 for a CD and yet won’t think twice about paying $5 for a ringtone.
This generation is one we have to cater for and to think differently about.
Our lack of understanding about the future and future generations is why we get so many predictions wrong.
Back in 1990, when we asked who would be the most likely new competitors to banks, it was Microsoft.
In 2000, it was Tesco.
In 2010, it’s Google or PayPal.
The thing is that each time we make these forecasts, we base them on who has critical mass at that time.
The trick is to see the emergent players, not the emerged.
The trick would be to see the Microsoft in 1980, the Tesco in 1990 and the PayPal in 2000; not ten years later.
And our competitor of 2020 is most likely small beer today, such as Spare Change on Facebook or Twollars on Twitter.
That’s why some companies get the future faster than others.
For example, BT has 16,000 employees on Facebook whilst IBM has more.
Is this wasting their time and ours?
Because the company that has the most employees using Facebook is Goldman Sachs.
Goldman Sachs must have a reason for encouraging this.
They have 22% of their workforce using Facebook to share knowledge (I’ve not been able to substantiate this number by the way). There’s something in that, and we should all consider the impact this is having on their business, organisation and competitiveness.
Similarly, we talk about the fact that having millions of customers, but that’s not ambitious enough or relevant enough.
For Facebook, Google and their kind, 17 million is a beta test, so we have to be more ambitious.
1 million is a trial, 10 million is a test and 100 million or more is when the game begins.
In conclusion, to get the future you have to watch the emergent, not the emerged; you have to watch the next generation, not the last; and you have to have grand ambitions, not incremental changes.
Think like a kid.