Digital Generation

We watched a TV program two days ago titled The Next Generation on CNN. It was a fascinating study of the values, interests and the optimism of the next generation. Next Generation is also known as Generation Y, Digital Generation, Net Generation or Digital Natives. Here are some traits described by Intuit Future of Small Business Report – a joint effort by The Institute of Future and Intuit.

Belmont University entrepreneurship professor Jeff Cornwall calls the currently rising Generation Y (ages 5 to 25) “the most entrepreneurial generation ever.” Generation Y is also often called the Digital Generation, the Net Generation, or Digital Natives, since they are the first generation to grow up with digital technologies rather than having to adapt to them. Because of this, they have a unique approach to information, society, and the workplace.

The world of the Digital Generation is Web-based and information rich, more so than any generation in the past. Multi-tasking—listening to an iPod, surfing the net, and text-messaging at the same time—is the norm. Having grown up on both scenario-based video games and the interactive world of the Web, this group believes that all outcomes are possible.

They are not afraid to take risks and try new things and are willing to make mistakes and learn from them. These traits are important seeds for entrepreneurship: Gen Yers are strong conceptually, build on ideas, and adapt or re-invent as needed.

I just came back from a 40 day trip to India and notice very similar trends there too. The Next generation is confident, more affluent than their parents (the ones who managed to get an education) and are much more ambitious.

Watching the CNN program and reading the report, I notice that the following trends will rapidly change the face of business all over the world.

  • The rise of learning without teaching (I call this Limitless Learning)
  • The rise of one person businesses (I run one)
  • Increasing entrepreneurial spirit
  • Leveraging technology (the younger generation is not afraid and very comfortable with technology. Why even a 3 year old knows how to play a video tape or a DVD on TV)
  • Increased use of cell phones for instant communication and text messaging
  • Continuous partial attention (they multi-task much more than the capability I consider human)
  • Limitless exposure through Internet (my 13 year old nephew is an expert in locating information on the net and showing his mom) and the ability to explore and share knowledge.

I am happy for them. I just wish I had all this stuff when I was growing up.