The Rise of the Digital Native – are you ready for it?

As an aging “Baby Boomer”, I can recall, with a certain sense of pride and nostalgia, what it felt like to grow up in the Swinging Sixties and Fabulous Seventies. I am still in awe at how our rebellious generation, managed to connect globally through the diverse array of writers, poets, personalities, song writers, musicians, actors and artists of our time in our quest to be acknowledged and “heard”. The “baby boomer” generation, has since become the most powerful and advantaged demographic segments of all time.

We were the original “Digital Immigrants”, born before the existence of digital technology, only learning how to adopt it later in our lives.

Today’s emerging equivalents to the “Baby Boomer” generation are described as “Digital Natives”, or “Gen Z”; having had a lifelong use of technology, via the internet, instant messaging, MP3 players and mobile phones. Also in a quest to be acknowledged and “heard’, this generation has found innovative and different ways of connecting and excelling in an uncertain and globalized world. Wikipedia describes “Gen Z” as having been raised “after the end of the Cold War and spread of the Internet. Generally speaking they’re the children of Generation X although some of the oldest may be the children of Baby Boomers; the youngest members can also be children of Generation Y.”

Digital Natives” are described as people “who were born during or after the general introduction of digital technologies and through interacting with digital technology from an early age, have a greater understanding of its concepts.”

“A person who understands the value of digital technology and uses this to seek out opportunities for implementing it with a view to make an impact”.

Whilst the “Baby Boomers” used magazines, radio and TV shows, rock shows, music, off beat art galleries, cabaret, fashion, anti war demonstrations to connect us and power our anger and enthusiasm for making the world a different, if not better place.

This emerging generation’s way of connecting is powered through technology, in ways that we never could have previously imagined.

An incredible example is Nick D’Alosio, who in March this year, at 17 years of age, sold his computer application, Summly, to Yahoo for a reported $30 million US dollars. An article in Forbes Magazine describes how, in the previous year, while studying for a history exam, he grew frustrated with the flood of text he received from Google search results. It describes how D’Alosio received his first computer at age 9, and used it to create movies with editing tools such as Final Cut Pro, and actually began writing apps at the age of 12 in 2008. At the age of 15, he completed his first round of venture capital funding and is acknowledged as the youngest person in the world to raise venture capital. Summly received Apples Best Apps of 2102 award for “Intuitive Touch” and currently has a 4.5/5 star rating on the App Store.

Even if Nick D’Alosio, is found to be an “anomaly in the technological matrix” or a “technological deviant”, his incredible success, at such a young age, is effectively a “game changer” in sourcing technological innovations. He is also representative of an aggressive new individualistic demographic, that will catalyze and drive the development of the new waves of technology that will impact significantly and shift the way society connects and businesses innovate and run in the future.

These shifts, in this new world, according to Ginni Rometty, the first female CEO of IBM, will be driven by cloud, mobile, social and big data advances, which are all happening at once and at lightning speed. She talks about how data will become the basis of competitive advantage going forwards, how social networks will drive value, and how consumer segments will cede to the individual.

Whether we consider ourselves “Digital Immigrants”, “Baby Boomers”, “Gen X’s” or “Gen Y’s” or “Gen Z’s, we all have the chance to learn how to play, excel and succeed, in this brave new world. As Rometty said, just because the technology exists and will become increasingly accurate, the shift will require new ways of thinking and acting.

“At the end of the day, it’s about mindset and culture,” she said.

Applying almost 6 decades of my hard earned “Baby Boomer” wisdom, I suggest that we choose to rise to the challenge and learn how to be truly innovative in the way we think, act and connect with one another. To co-create, with the emerging “Digital Natives” the “authentic corporations” Rommety talks about. These organizations will harness the talent and creativity of “crowds” creating meritocracies where age, gender, race, education and job history, will no longer matter.

The way work will be organized, talent will be employed, research will be conducted and products made and marketed will be different and disruptive to what we know as “business as usual”.

We need to find innovative ways of understanding, nurturing, embracing and adopting an attitude where “business as usual” is no longer sustainable or good enough!

Perhaps if we encourage people to engage with change through developing their innovative leadership capabilities, as “Baby Boomers” we can help lead the way forwards by collaborating with and empowering these “technological deviants”.

Who knows, it might just re-ignite our enthusiasm, re-focus our efforts and fulfill our dream towards making the world a better and more coherent place.

It just won’t be in ways that we expect, so be prepared!

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  • Generating Innovation with Constructive Conflict and Generative Debate Janet Sernack is the Founder & CEO ImagineNation. She is an ICf certified executive coach and experiential learning specialist with expertise in adaptive leadership and team effectiveness. Janet facilitates a weekly business network in Zichron Yaakov, Israel, for English speaking business owners and entrepreneurs.

    Janet Sernack

    Janet is the Founder of ImagineNation™ a coaching, education & culture consulting company who leads the way and helps businesses achieve their innovation goals by challenging businesses to be, think & act differently to create a world where people matter & innovation is the norm.




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