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 Her view that companies continue to push outdated applications and non-technical business processes in lieu of newer more agile solutions.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.

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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.


Let the Battle Begin…

January 22, 2007

I ran across this interesting article out of the UK, IT chiefs must prepare for informal “Generation Y”. The general gist of this article is that companies need to begin to accommodate the Millennials entering the workplace or else they will be left in the dust. Those companies who begin to offer more flexible, informal work environments will be much better equipped to recruit and retain this next generation of workers.

So as a millennial in the workplace, what is your company doing to keep you happy and retain you as a valuable asset and what are they dong to recruit other young, tech-savvy workers of tomorrow? Are they providing teleworking opportunities and distributing mobile devices such as Smartphones, UMPCs, Tablet PCs, or laptops? How about your work environment in general, is it a fun corporate culture or is it uptight and stuffy?

My company has given me a laptop and offers a nice broadband VPN to work from home, however you cannot access the Internet while connected to the VPN nor are there any formal telework policies which leaves me chained to my desk Monday – Friday. The overall vibe at my workplace is relatively uptight due to a workforce whose average age is double that of my own. Granted it is a utility company whose roots can be traced back to George Washington. That certainly doesn’t mean that this company or any other, regardless of history, should not have or be working on a plan for addressing the technology and workplace needs of our generation.