I like to think I’m fairly open-minded and progressive. (OK, maybe not all agree with this assessment.) Still, I readily admit I’m a Baby Boomer, and this gives me a certain life perspective quite unlike the Gen Y perspective, or even Gen X, for that matter. I recently learned that these labels can be sliced and diced even further, with Boomers divided into Early Boomers and Late Boomers, each different in some ways from the other. But that’s another story. More on that later, maybe.
In reading a review of the recently published “Grown Up Digital,” by Don Tapscott (who earlier wrote “Growing Up Digital”), I reflected on how very true it is that Gen Y (or Net Gen, or Millenials; many names for the “kids” born between 1977 and 1997) is completely different on so many levels. Managing and working alongside several Gen Y folks, I can attest to the challenges – well, let’s call them frustrations – in dealing with Gen Y thinking. Fortunately, far more frequent are the pure joys of working with people who immediately, intuitively and enthusiastically “get” just about anything digital and are happily willing to share their digital and virtual “toys” – and are patient with what must seem to them the agonizingly slow Boomer pace of “getting it.”
I have ordered my own copy of “Grown Up Digital” – and in keeping with 2009, I’ve ordered it online. Which means I can’t begin reading tonight, but must wait for it to arrive. Driving to Barnes & Noble would be faster, but who has time for a bookstore visit when Amazon is so tantalizingly close? Yes, there are trade-offs between new tech and the old-fashioned way, which I encounter every day.
Gen Y folks are not conflicted by old and new ways. “Grown Up Digital” explains how their minds work – just reading the book review in the Financial Times of London (and reprinted in the L.A. Times) gave me insights that kept me exclaiming, “Aha!” Very simply, Gen Y’ers have digital blood flowing in their veins. They have “hypertext minds” that “play” with information, changing and moving it from place to place at will – rather than just passively absorbing the information, fact by fact. Yes, I, too, want to share things I’ve read and seen, but my first inclination is to physically rip it out of the paper, photocopy it and then hand-deliver, mail or fax it to the person. I rarely do this anymore, but it’s my natural thought process. When I stop and think further, I realize I can e-mail the link. Or send a Tweet on Twitter. Or scribble a thought on a friend’s FaceBook wall. Or send to one of my Linked-In groups.
Or, write a blog post with my thoughts. It’s a brave new digital world, and I – for one – am glad the generations are mixing it up in the workplace and in our personal lives. How boring it would be if I knew everything!