Much has been made of the Millennials, or digital natives, about to descend on the workforce. These are the next generation of workers, typically those born after 1985, who have grown up in a connected world. Numbering some 78 million in the US alone – more than the 73 million baby boomers – this group will have a profound impact on the world of work and entertainment as it ascends to prominence, much as the baby boomers have had.
One of the big concerns is that this generation will kick the daylights out of previous generations because of their inherent proficiency with technology. This group, so the story goes, is more social and connected and just better with technology then the boomers. This will give the up-and-comers a big advantage over the rest of us.
There’s no doubt that advanced ways of communicating and collaborating like Facebook, texting, video chats, etc. trump snail mail and email. But the social tools aren’t that hard to use. It’s more the set-in-my-ways mindset that distrusts technology and blocks meaningful collaboration.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
I would submit that anyone can become a digital native. I know that in my case I’ve been using digital tools – some very primitive – since the 1970s. As every new generation of technology came along, I immersed myself in the tools and embraced the new way of working. Email was a radical shift from the world of paper memos, and certainly just as significant as going from email to social collaboration.
My message to everyone 35+, go get yourself an Android or iPhone, set up Facebook, set up a Twitter feed, or collaborate on a Wiki page. And open up. Speaking of which, I just upgraded from a BlackBerry to an Android. While I still need a laptop and email, the real-time always-connected, always-located nature of the latest devices is a revelation. Go ahead. Become a digital native.