There seems to be an ongoing national sport associated with categorizing and contrasting generations.

If you listen to Tom Brokaw, there was “The Greatest Generation” (born 1922-1943) who overcame the Great Depression and Fascism and is now heading for the history books.

Next up were the Baby Boomers (1944-1963) with the defining events of the Kennedy assassination, Vietnam, and Neil Armstrong on the moon. The most mature of this group are now entering their Golden Years.

Behind them are the X-Gens (born 1964-1980), coming to age with the Fall of the Berlin Wall, and now in their prime working years.

Generation Y or the Millennials (born 1980-1999) are now in their high school and college years and supposedly will only take a “yes” for an answer. Reportedly, they are the most educated in history.

And finally, there is Generation Z or the Zeds (born 1995-2009). The acronym “GM” means genetically modified to this generation with the more mature just entering college.

Much has been made about history and the interdependency and clashes between generations (e.g., “Turn that s… off!”), particularly the generational theory work of historians William Strauss and Neil Howe.

But please allow Almost DailyBrett to ask: Is it really this complicated?

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Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives

Instead of getting our collective knickers in a twist over generational divides, let’s just focus on the most important divide of all: The difference between Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives.

During the course of the lifespans of Baby Boomers and for the most part, X-Gens, occurred the most important-to-date technological changes.

Bob Noyce (Intel) and/or Jack Kilby (Texas Instruments) invented the integrated circuit in 1959, allowing more than one function to be included on a single piece of silicon.

Gordon Moore promulgated Moore’s Law in 1965, simply stating the amount of complexity that could be incorporated onto a defined slice of silicon real estate doubles every 18-24 months. This law has been accurate for nearly 50 years, and is responsible for more functionality in smaller spaces (e.g., iPhones).

IBM invented the PC and Apple the Mac computer in 1981 and 1984 respectively.

Web 1.0 (websites for surfing) came on the scene in 1990 and Web 2.0 (interconnectivity of wired and wireless computation devices) followed five years later.

First-mover and now all publicly traded social media companies came of age in the last decade-plus: LinkedIn, 2002; Facebook, 2004; and Twitter, 2006.

The point of this discussion is that all or the vast majority of these seminal technology changes came during the lifespans of the Baby Boomers and X-Gens. Under the Diffusion of Innovation Theory, a few will be “innovators”, more will be “early adopters”, even more will be “early majority”, the same amount will be “late majority” and then 16 percent will be bah-humbug, curmudgeon “laggards.”

Alas, many in the Digital Immigrant category fall into the late majority or laggard camps.

Teaching Digital Natives

The challenge lies with Digital Immigrants, whether they be Baby Boomers or X-Gens, teaching Digital Natives, whether they be Millennials/Generation Y or (gasp) Generation Z.

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What this means is that Digital Immigrant educators must “get it” when it comes to meaningful technology shifts.

Does that translate into playing “Candy Crush”? Not exactly.

What it does require is daily participation in social media and/or blogging. Whether the good folks at the conventional media outlets like it or not (and in most cases they are kicking and screaming), digital publishing via mobile devices, and in declining cases with a mouse, is now a permanent and irreversible feature of our society.

When it comes to brand and reputation management, one needs to be afraid, very afraid. Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List and others are there to help settle the score. If you are teaching brand management, your Digital Native students need to understand that you get it when it comes to the very fact that reputations can be drastically altered in a matter of seconds.

Only Digital Immigrant innovators, early adopters and early majority denizens can teach the Digital Natives. And that requires keeping pace with the inevitable changes that will occur. Amazon was born 20 years ago. The wildly successful IPO of China’s Alibaba was just this past Friday.

What will be the next killer app and where will it come from?

For Digital Native students, they have their own forms of angst, and they are having their fair share of troubles in finding a job in a stubbornly difficult economy. For them, there is no excuse. They are expected to “get it” when it comes to not only deciphering social, mobile and cloud technologies, but more importantly how to monetize these complex ones-and-zeroes.

It sounds like a mismatch: Digital immigrants, the majority of which did not initially appreciate the technological changes in their lives as they were happening, are mentoring the Digital Natives, who were born seemingly with a video game controller in their hands.digitalnative1

Nonetheless, there are still analog skills (i.e., to-the-point persuasive writing, overcoming Glossophobia, parallel construction, financial communications) that can be communicated to the Digital Natives. After all, Digital Immigrants had to find a job when they graduated too.

Now it’s time for Digital Natives to write their own cover letters, curriculum vitaes and of course, LinkedIn profiles, to compete for the jobs of the 21st Century.

Don’t forget your attachments.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greatest_Generation#The_Greatest_Generation

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Brokaw

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strauss%E2%80%93Howe_generational_theory

http://www.techopedia.com/definition/28139/digital-immigrant

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_native

 

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