Leadership / Management | Organizational Development | Technology & Social Media | Training & CPE

Embrace the Web’s evolution … or die

Future_2We've spent a lot of time here talking about generational differences and the concessions older managers are making to accommodate the work habits of their younger employees.

Those concessions will turn into an all-out workplace revolution, if I'm reading the results of a new MacArthur Foundation study correctly.

The study, in which researchers interviewed more than 800 young people and spent more than 5,000 hours studying their online activities, found a huge disconnect between what youngsters are doing online and what adults think they are doing.

So what are they doing? Learning, as it turns out.

“It might surprise parents to learn that it is not a waste of time for their teens to hang out online,” said the report's lead author, Mizuko Ito, a researcher at the University of California, Irvine. “There are myths about kids spending time online – that it is dangerous or making them lazy. But we found that spending time online is essential for young people to pick up the social and technical skills they need to be competent citizens in the digital age.”

In a nutshell, the study found that spending time online is not, as many adults fear, a waste of time. Rather, it's teaching young people "the social and technical skills that they need to fully participate in contemporary society," the report states.

And the learning doesn't stop there. Youngsters are also expanding their education by studying specific subjects online -- and that online education is strengthened through the power of social networks. In fact, researchers found that youngsters today are more motivated to learn from each other than from adults.

The report states emphatically that "adults should facilitate young people's engagement with digital media" and "to stay relevant, education institutions need to keep pace with the rapid changes introduced by digital media."

That applies to business leaders as well. Many of them are already changing their business practices to accommodate their millennial workers. When the youngsters in the study hit the workforce, those changes will become an outright reformation. Social networks, Web 3.0 semantics and virtual worlds will invade the workplace and become the new normal.

And why? Because tomorrow's employees will demand them. Why wouldn't they? They've never known a world without them. As a result, businesses that stubbornly cling to traditional business models will lose any chance they had of attracting tomorrow's top talent, and they'll evaporate in the process.

Still think you don't need to pay attention to today's Web 2.0 "fads?" If we don't figure this stuff out now, we'll be completely lost when those "fads" evolve into the next big thing.

And I've got news for you: That evolution has already begun.


Bill Sheridan