Some time ago I casually mentioned to my Generation Y daughter that I first started using the internet in the year 2000. She looked at me in disbelief. “That’s after I was born!”, she exclaimed. It shocked her to realise that something that had become such an integral part of her life was in fact so “new”.
Technology in general, and the Internet in particular is having a considerable effect on Generation Y, who have grown up with a computer in the house and had internet access in their teens or even younger. While I am an immigrant to the digital world, these young people are digital natives and were born into it. While I have managed to stay ahead of my own daughters in this technology I know I am in the minority in relation to other parents. For the first time in history perhaps we have a younger generation teaching adults how to use what have become essential tools for life. They are the experts, not just in the family but also in the workplace where they have come to expect the latest technology and software to be available for their use.
At the cutting edge of most technological advancement is speed. We have gone from dialup to broadband and now ultrafast broadband within a matter of a few years, and CPU speeds in computers and tablets are getting faster and faster.
This “need for speed” feeds an expectation that things must happen quickly and that answers are just a click away. Generation Y become impatient with business processes and personal advancement that seem to take a long time. They hate having to wait.
But technology and the internet is not just making them more impatient. There is good evidence to show that it has impacted the way their brains are “wired”. Not only are they a visual generation growing up in front of various screens, but they are an interactive generation, used to not just looking at content on a screen like their parents did, but interacting with it. The sheer volume of information and entertainment at their fingertips means they learn to multitask (though not always well), switching incessantly from one stimuli or one web page to another. They become bored quickly, finding linear thought processes dull as they learn to gather information quickly and utilise it creatively without always having developed the capability or patience to synthesise it accurately.
The ability to network quickly and globally leads to a willingness to collaborate in finding answers, as they draw unashamedly on other’s expertise whilst enhancing their own. Managed correctly they can add great insights to the business that employs them.