The Millennial Mind – High Tech, Low Touch

November 3, 2009

This past weekend my wife and I stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott with the new GoBoards – basically large flat screens that you can touch to access news, weather, and maps. As we were waiting to check in, I was drawn to this large, bright screen like a bug to a bug zapper and immediately started going to work on it. At the same time a  young boomer couple was with the front desk clerk with a large paper fold out map and a half-dozen questions on where this was or how to get to that. In less time I not only knew where this was and how to get to that, I read the US Today news feed and checked the weather during our stay.

It amazed me how I went directly to the computer and really had no desire to speak to the clerk and the boomer couple had no desire to even look at the computer but went right to the clerk. Given the choice I would have preferred an automated check-in and bypassed the clerk all-together.


Web 2.0 as a Concept

June 22, 2008

I had an epiphany of sorts this past week while I was away at school.  For every new technology trend to hit the market there is both the technology and the underlying concepts of said technology.  Basically, the technology is just the tool and the concept is what defines the tool.  This seems somewhat obvious but I think I’ve taken it for granted.

A fellow Millennial had the idea of creating a flickr account to capture all of the pictures from our year long graduate school adventure.  As we all know, flickr is a an online community for sharing pictures and video.  The key words here are online community.  Online to me represents the centralization of these digital assets in the cloud and not hiding them on the desktops of 90 individuals.  Community is defined as ‘common, public, shared by all or many’ and represents the ability for those 90 individuals to contribute to and view these centralized digital assets.  So online is our Web 1.0 concept and community is our Web 2.0 concept.

So our Millennial friend was the first to start a community and notified the class on the 12th of this month.  Following that we had another individual post pictures to SharePoint on the 17th and then a different person added pictures to Picasa on the 21st.  Both of these individuals are not of the Millennial variety.  So now we have three individuals building three separate communities with assets in three different tools. 

I believe each of these individuals made great Web 2.0 tool decisions however they missed the boat on some key Web 2.0 concepts.  Now we have three communities with the same intent, essentially creating a competitive environment.  This either forces folks to share with not one community, but all three, or even worse, not share at all because the the process has been convoluted.

In our situation the usefulness of the tools is evident but the concepts of the social computing was lost on some folks.  This is a small example with a big take away.  I learned that regarless of how cool or interesting a technology may be, it’s the concept that is important. 


Millennials at School

June 7, 2008

Last month I started a few new chapters in my life.  I got married and I started grad school.  The Millennial marriage was good times but a topic for a different day.  This post is about my reintroduction to academia and how in the next twelve months I will be working very closely with a diverse group of individuals from three generations.  I do not have demographic information for this years program yet but I would say the group is predominately of the Xer variety with a handful each of Boomers and Millennials.

After our first weekend of class I can say one thing for sure.  Regardless of how tech savvy our generation is, we cannot compete against the years of experience the other two generations have.  In three days I heard more stories about successes and failures within the enterprise than I could ever imagine.  I guess in ten to twenty years I’ll have as many stories, but right now, fact is, I don’t.

This just reminded me how important it is for diversity withing work groups.  Not just of race, gender, and nationality, but of generation.  Each generation has something beneficial to offer the group as a whole.  Wisdom, experience, and lessons learned coupled with fresh ideas and technical know how is a powerful combination for any organization.

Look for more to come about Millenials at School over the next year.


Networking 101

March 12, 2008

Generation Y is the known as the most networked generation ever. Meaning we maintain connections with persons from our past over longer periods of time and often look for opportunities to connect with new folks. Facebook and LinkedIn are standards at this point and we use them to reach out and digitally touch (or poke in Facebook speak) friends from past, present, and into the future.

Unfortunatley for the enterprise, all this personal networking is one factor that leads to higher turnover of younger employees. It is nothing new to get a job through a close friend but what has changed is the medium job inquiries are received and how close that friend actually is. It is not uncommon for me to get a Facebook invite from a “friend” in my network looking for applicants or to get a LinkedIn question from a headhunter who queried something in my profile. I think part of being so highly networked is our willingness to post personal information all over the Web in various forms and locations. The social networks facilitate the sharing of this information and opens the discussion about employment opportunities.

It’s not just social networks either. Maybe some of you out in the blogosphere have given or received job offers based on a blog. Maybe you’ve initiated a conversation with someone based on their expertise shown in a discussion forum.  Simply put, Millennials continue to make their mark all over the Web, continually expanding their networks; one page, one profile, one post at a time.


Harsh Words for “Old Folk” in CIO Magazine

January 12, 2008

Until very recently this blog has done a good job of facilitating my flow if ideas on generational differences in the workplace while not trying to antagonize or attack any generation or any individual. However, comments were made by ‘Paul’ that my views are naive and some of my thoughts are off base because I don’t have a spouse (inaccurate) or children. He even went as far as to question my ability to think independently and insinuated I am just pushing the agenda of some sociologists. Though his comments were somewhat harsh for my liking (but I am a whiny Millennial) and seemed to be more off topic per post than on, all contributions are appreciated. Furthermore his comments reminded me of the confrontational tone from a November article of CIO Magazine titled ‘In Defense of Gen Y Workers‘.

The auther of that article was a 21 year old editorial assistant at CIO. She had some very good commentary that I agreed with including her thoughts regarding our early adoption of technology and collaborative tools as well as our use of these and other tools to multi task our way through life. Her view that companies continue to push outdated applications and non-technical business processes in lieu of newer more agile solutions. Most importantly, her views on work life integration where she stated “I need to be connected to be happy. And that means connected in all areas of my life, work and play, not that I think there’s much difference between them.

So where I did agree with some of her comments, just like our friend Paul’s, I did not agree with the confontational and demeaning tone. She seems to be antaganizing older generations with comments like these:

Old folk, like you, experience technology as a disruption of the familiar. You Boomers talk about the warm sound of vinyl records. Excuse me? You think that hissing crackle is warm? Gen X talks about claymation and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club and other sappy John Hughes movies celebrating slackers and losers…

The fact is, I’m different, I’m better and I’m tired of hearing otherwise.

Now, I completely agree that we are different, but I am not willing to assert that we are better. Every generation, just like every person, has both good and bad qualities. I don’t think it’s anyones place to start ranking or trying to quantify a generations worth to a company or society as a whole. So keep in mind folks, regardless of which generation you come from, keep it professional. Try not to blast the thoughts of one person or bring down a whole group of people just to lift yourself, or your group to a higher level.


We Are Not Google!

September 13, 2007

You don’t say? I thought I just left my dog at home today, overlooked the pool tables, and donated the rest of my salary to charity. Regardless, the clarification may have been necessary for me as a Millennial and fan of all things Google. However necessary, it should not be an excuse from a Boomer to a Millennial regarding a companies lack of desire to accept change.

Since earlier this year when Fortune named Google the Best Company to Work For in America, Google has been brought up many times in the workplace outside of the context of just search and their suite of Web tools. Now their name is being thrown around the workplace by different generations as a form of reference.

Around the same time my Boomer colleague mentioned that our company was not Google, I had a Millennial coworker attempt to negotiate a perk popularized by Google referred to as “twenty percent” time. This is the practice in which Google encourages all of it’s engineers to spend one day a week on projects that interest them regardless of their project team. This has proven to be quite the successful practice for Google which estimates that half of new product launches originated from the 20% time. Alas, as my Boomer friend mentioned, we are not Google and consequently my Millennial friend’s request was denied.

As Google continues it’s path of domination and it’s influence over members of the Google Generation (just made that up, not offical), I believe we will see more and more pressure from Millennials to make the workplace more Google like and give the power to the lowly worker bees to push change and be creative and not just be cogs in the corporate machine.


Wiki Woes

August 3, 2007

A wiki is not a Wikipedia, Wikipedia is a wiki. Wiki’s are not an inherently useless collection of Web pages with lackluster or nonexistent security, history, and versioning features. With that said, is the concept of a wiki that hard to grasp? I mean, its just a simple application that takes inputs through a Web form, stores them, then makes that content visible and readily editable through a browser. Blogs and wikis are technically some of the most simple applications but yet seem to be some of the more controversial collaborative tools that Millennials are using and hoping to share with other generations. Don’t get me wrong, Millennials did not create the wiki concept or technology (see Ward Cunningham) but they have made it an integral part of their collaborative arsenal.

Recently I started a corporate softball team for the IT department at my company. There was an obvious need for some sort of Web presence to hold all necessary information such as rosters, schedules, recaps, pictures, etc. I chose the wiki engine stikipad.com for its simplicity, ease of access, and the fact that it was free. By the end of the season I ended up being the only content generator aside form the blog like comments left by a few team members. I created and maintained all of the pages, I uploaded and linked all of the pictures. I’m fine with putting in the leg work but I was hoping to facilitate collaboration and distribution of content generation. That was not so much the case.

There were very few comments, and some of the comments were there to simply mock the concept of the wiki as if it were a joke. I am still ridiculed from time to time by coworkers for my support of the wiki concept yet no one can tell me why. InfoWorld.com deemed 2004 as the year of the enterprise wiki, yet its 2007 and I’m being taunted. Its as if members of older generations are afraid of wikis and other Web 2.o technologies, like its a bits and bytes version of the plague. In retrospect I think if I never told anyone that our team site was powered by a wiki engine and just let them have at it, the site would have received a much warmer welcome and it would have achieved my goals of collaboration and distribution of content generation. So I’ve learned my lesson, in the future when discussing the wiki concept with seasoned members of a large corporate IT department, refer to it as an enterprise grade content management system with lackluster permissions and oversight.


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