The post-Millenial generation is changing the face of business, society, our global ecology, and beyond. For organizations that are seeking the innovation edge, the key to their next evolution is likely in eliminating the barriers that separate generations in order to establish an ecosystem of continuous innovation. This is the subject of Tom Koulopoulos’ and Dan Keldsen’s The Gen Z Effect: The Six Forces Shaping the Future of Business. We had the good fortune to interview one of the book’s authors, Dan Keldsen, today. The following is our interview.
IS: The book is The Gen Z Effect, but could you introduce us to your authors?
DK: The Gen Z Effect comes as a result of a 20+ year friendship, the first 13 of which were directly working together as the CEO (Tom) and CTO (Dan) of Delphi Group. This is Tom’s 10th book, and Dan’s 1st. They both share a lifelong love of learning and researching the cutting edge of technology, where it’s been, where it’s taking us, and how we and our businesses can make the most of it, together, right now.
IS: Your book is designed to be share-able, tweetable, and consumable in multiple formats. I love that there are even points in the ebook that are designed to be innately shared on social media. Could you distill your book into a tweet summary here?
DK: In under 140 characters:
Generational stereotypes are lazy lies. Learn, work, fund & create together. Leverage behavior not labels to win. #GenZ
IS: You say in your book that there isn’t a particular birth date for Gen Z, but a set of behaviors that are associated with members of that generation. What are the behaviors that characterize as Gen Z behaviors?
DK: With Gen Z, we’re saying that we’ve reached the point in history when Gen Z is effectively the last generation. With Gen Z, we are Breaking Generations down as the long-held myths that they are, and that frees us to look at the behaviors that we’re ALL exhibiting, led by Gen Z, and picked up (or revealed) by prior generations.
The behaviors springing from The Gen Z Effect are summed up in the Six Forces we’ve identified:
Breaking Generations: facing the imminent and immensely disruptive population redistribution that equalizes the number of humans globally in each of the thirteen five-year age groups from birth to sixty- four. (i.e., ages 0–4, 5–9, 10–14, . . . 60–64)
Hyperconnecting: moving toward exponential hyperconnectivity among people, computers, machines, and objects.
Slingshotting: exploiting disruptive advances in user experience and affordability that turn what was the cutting edge of technology into the norm, allowing large segments of the population to catch up, seemingly overnight, with technology pioneers.
Shifting from Affluence to Influence: leveraging the ever increasing ability to influence world events through communities that cut across age and other demographic boundaries, without the benefit of access to large pools of capital.
Adopting the World As My Classroom: pushing toward global availability and affordability of education through all levels of schooling and for any age.
Lifehacking: breaking through barriers, taking shortcuts, and other- wise outsmarting the system so that we can focus on outcomes rather than processes, making meaning and purpose the center of our personal and professional experience.
Without going into exhaustive detail on all of the behavioral examples we cover, some samples of the behaviors that result from the Six Forces are:
Breaking Generations = dropping the assumptions that you’re too young to lead/manage, raise capital, or have “good ideas” or that you’re too old to get new technology, new behaviors, etc. Everyone can and will contribute or participate, if they see a reason to.
Hyperconnecting = with smart phones in almost every hand (in developed countries, and quickly rising in developing countries), there is almost never a time when you could legitimately not have direct access to the information or people that you need. This may mean we are impatient for instant gratification, but it also means we are able to make faster decisions, learn things more rapidly, and connect nearly instantly with people almost anywhere on the planet. The time when there was life BG (Before Google), seems almost impossible. How did you get anywhere? Meet up with anyone? Know what restaurant to go to? How to fix a flat tire?
Slingshotting = one of the significant behavior changes is that touch interfaces, wireless networking, and voice controls, have made what used to be very user-hostile technology, into something that is literally “always on” your person, by your bed, in your pocket. When people who have never owned a computer, throughout the 70s until now, are suddenly walking around with them in their pocket, it’s easy to see that we have a whole set of behaviors that are truly across all generations. Technology doesn’t have to be expensive, hostile, and only for the early adopters – we’re on the cusp of a completely different technology revolution now that everyone expects great apps in the palm of their hand, that work instantly and with minimal effort.
IS: In The Gen Z Effect you spend time talking about how employee engagement should be a top priority. But could you spend a minute talking about why it is so crucial not just to the employees, but to the enterprise itself?
DK: I’ve found that it’s dangerous to only look at issues from the “company first” perspective, that’s why so many “corporate initiatives” fail (particularly technology-driven social/collaboration and innovation initiatives). The employees are disengaged from the entire process, and there is quite literally nothing in it for them. It falls out of the sky, with poor internal marketing/sales (aka internal communications), and the “corporate transformation” rolls off of the disengaged employees, like water off a duck’s back.
So a significant portion of The Gen Z Effect from a corporate perspective is that you need to look at what EVERYONE is looking to get out of their work, life and the business itself. Executives and human resources departments may often say that “their people are their most valuable assets” – but that myth has been exploded so often that it’s easy to be cynical and treat such mantras as veiled threats that you actually are, as it turns out, replaceable.
The reality is that nobody is irreplacable, companies don’t last forever, and lifelong employment is a thing of the past
But… despite the doom and gloom of what passes for news these days, there are far more opportunities available for people than at any time in history.
This is all thanks to forces like Lifehacking (specifically crowdfunding as way to unleash capital from the largest pool of investors possible) , crowdsourcing), Hyperconnecting (social networks, data networks), and life-long learning opportunities, at prices and quality that have never been seen before).
IS: What does innovation look like in a post-generational world?
Innovation is no longer limited to the lone entrepreneur or strictly for the Research and Development department. With the rise of the app economy, crowdfunding and crowdsourcing of and by employees (at work within companies like IBM), and the employee-to-employee learning opportunities spreading across Silicon Valley companies and beyond, innovation is now open to everyone, inside or outside of work.
IS: Do you have a greatest hope for Gen Z (bearing in mind, of course, that the exponential problems and solutions are beyond the ken of our own generation)?
DK: That we continue to break down the myths of the generational gaps we’ve been told that divide us, and forge the kind of strong, cross-generational teams that we’ve found throughout our research, pulling the best from the youngest and oldest among us alike. Only by doing that will humanity will be able to solve the great challenges that lie ahead.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Gen-Z effect, pre-order your copy today and receive a special offer from IdeaScale.