Saturday, July 24, 2010

Grown up digital - Don Tapscott

The way of our living have changed in last couple of decades. It has always been changing, but what is special about last couple of decades would be the question. In a single world, it has turned digital. Look at every business we conduct, every action we perform day to day, every thing is now controlled or effected by Digital Technology. Way back in 1997 ( I think), when Lou Gerstner, then the CEO of IBM announced e-Business, he was forecasting a future where the business is conducted electronically. Even he wouldn't have believed that the changes would be so dramatic.

I am not getting into statistics in detail. But a recent mail received which talked about 'social media revolution' had some interesting statistics.  (See them here : ). The popularity of Facebook, twitter and similar social networking sites are not only taking active role in our daily life, but also causing dramatic shift in our social behaviour.
While there may be arguments on the merits and de-merits of this phenomenon substantiated with statistics and reasons, there is no two-way about its ever increasing influence in the present day life. Don Tapscott , in his follow on book to his "growing up digital", revisits these facts in this new book, with some interesting insights.

Calling them the 'Net Generation" , after the baby boomers born between 1946 to 1964 ( post worldwar era), the Gen X born between 1965 to 1976 ( Vietnam war), he looks at the characteristical differences and social changes of these people within the Digital World. Net Generation in this book are considered those who are born post 1977 till 1997. With the exponent growth in the world trade and the ever increasing connectivity, and mobile telephony has made this generation leap frog in the social interactions albeit in the virtual world. Abundance of information and the easy availability has made them more informative ( not necessarily improved knowledge, and less on wisdom), making them better equipped to respond and adjust to the changing world order. Tapscott, looks at various aspect of the social life of the Net-Gens and critically looks at the need for the change.

Education : The earlier model of training ( which he calls 100 years behind), is not what is effective to the new generation. Their ability to multiplex, comprehend different aspect, their ability to search and get what is needed makes the whole education system to be revamped. The 'pre-Gutenburg' model of teaching ( the notes written in the book of the teacher passes on to the notes written by the student without going through either brain - or so is the joke) , in the form of lecture has no place in today's education. 'Instead of focusing on the teacher, the education system should focus on the student'. The one-size-fit-all model of learning is no more relevant.

Workplace: As we see daily in Office, many old timers find it difficult to adjust to the newer generation of work force. They are blamed for not being serious and not career oriented and less loyal to the organisation with respect to the earlier generation. With the improved awareness and confidence, the netgen-ers are more critical to their work place. Hence the management strategy on talent development and employee retention need a re-thinking. As many organisations have tried and failed, locking the mail boxes, preventing the social networking sites etc may not yield results, but could be counter productive. According to Tapscott, the organisation need to appreciate the need for a 'digital break' by its employees.

Consumer: With the lesser and lesser viewing of the young, spending more time online, the world of marketting and consumerism need to adopt to the changing behaviour of the youngsters. It was proven that TV viewing is becoming more and more passive, and the advertisements are not registered as it used to be earlier. The common method used by most of the new advertisements, by having banners at various internet sites, too are not yielding results. Peer reviews have shown significant influence in the buying decision of the Netgen youth and feedback from friends and colleagues seems to have positive impact on their buying behaviour. These days, people do online research on the product they would like to buy and the shop experience has only been reduced to the look and feel and convenience.

Family : The changing social order has the effect in the family order as well. It was observed that more and more youngsters in the US are coming back home after graduation and live with their parents, which was opposite to the earlier generation, who would leave home and build their own family elsewhere. Similarly, the improved 'digital knowledge' of the son or the daughter in the family make them superior to their parents in many ways. The need of going out to freedom is now reduced with the available freedom within the family and in their own private space. This has also resulted in lesser drug addition, alcoholism, sexual assaults and other crimes of similar nature.

The net Generation can also have a huge influence on the social, political and civic order. Citing the Barac Obama election campaign, where the net generation have taken active participation, Tapscott explains the positive influence it can be to the democracy all over the world. Revelution in Social media has also made more and more people to be vocal about the mis-practices around the world. They are able to influence and canvas millions of people for a cause, within a short time. Young people for various social causes are garnering global support for their campaign and often managing to get what they wanted. With blogging being popular every one is now a 'publisher' and through you tube, anyone can be a broadcaster.

We have been discussing the possible advantageous and its possible influence for all along. There are innumerable examples of this being mis-utilised. They are also making people internalised and virtual with less and less personal, face to face interactions ( or the so called social skills). They are also more open and have no concern in sharing their personal and some times intimate data in the public domain. The dark sides can also take a book to describe ( As some of them have already published). the fact however remain that there is no going back. There is no point in being one rowing against the wind. Its for the world in total to make use of this phenomenon to the better use.

Grown Up Digital ( 2008 )

Don Tapscott

Tata - McGrawHill Pu blications ( Only for India & South Asia )

368 Pages

Rs 650


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