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Friday, December 3, 2010

Generation Challenges With Tech In Business & Organizations

As I get older and get involved with different groups, I began noticing barriers that seemed to be coming up with different generations when approaching various issues or projects. When they were questioning 'why?' I seemed to always be asking 'why not?' Or when direction is given, asking "Why are we doing that?"

I've found is not always a question that is very welcomed from older generations. The response is usually, "Just do it." None of what I discuss here is meant to be negative either, but there are notable differences in attitudes and approaches from varying generations and many others are noticing this as well. In particular, the 'Baby Boomers' and Generation X'ers. This can often result in 'butting of heads', slow progress, and can cause real missed opportunities for businesses and organizations.

The Generations
  1. Baby Boomers - This group is comprised of people born primarily between 1946 and 1964. This group grew up in a time of dramatic social change (but slow growth in technological and information innovation) and a time where questioning authority was not always very acceptable.
  2. Generation X - This group is where I fall in, and are primarily those born between 1965 to 1970'ish. We tend to question everything and we like to 'explore' things. We grew up with a great deal of technological advancements and tend to welcome new technologies and change.

The Issues That Result

It might not seem like much between the two generations in terms of differing perspectives, but when it comes to advancements you'll often find the the Boomers wanting to stick to 'the way it's always been' and the 'X'ers' proposing 'That doesn't make sense anymore. Why not try this?' This is where the dialogue often just crumbles to the floor and things go no where. If you don't believe me, try proposing the use of FourSquare to promote your business to your boss who is a 'Baby Boomer' and see how that goes over. You'll most likely get the response of "People aren't going to announce where they are at."  Or try suggesting the use of a Facebook Page in addition to your existing Call Center.  The response will most likely be something like, "Well, we have the Call Center and it works just fine."  

The problem in both scenarios above is that real opportunities to improve and save are being missed.  Both are low-cost opportunities that can provide real payoffs.  Not trying is simply a missed opportunity with little or no risk.  The proverbial "Nothing to lose" scenarios.  Unfortunately, the conversations usually end and nothing happens.

How To Overcome The Differing Views
  • Be empathetic.  Often times when you 'boil it down', the issue is empathy on both sides.  There is value from both perspectives. "What has always been" can have real weight to it, and just because it's 'traditional' doesn't mean it should be dismissed.  For example, abandoning print advertising that is still generating business and continues to be an investment for online only advertising would be pointless but many insist on this route.  Rather than proposing to 'fix what isn't broken', propose enhancing your ad efforts and adding an online effort that would open new channels and reach a wider customer base. 
  • Propose items in ways people already understand.  Everything that is done through technology is an enhancement to the way in which we have always done things.  Social networking efforts for a business are essentially like setting up a permanent booth in the largest 24/7 'convention center' ever imagined.
  • Get the facts and show the data.  Presenting Facebook Pages, use of FourSquare, Twitter, etc. just because others saw success or 'everyone's doing it' (sound familiar from school days?) will probably get you no where.  Show the value in data, the manner in which it would enhance your efforts, and the revenue opportunities.  Real world tests beforehand and showing the results are definitely worthwhile.
  • Know the barriers that presently exist and present the technology as the solution that it is. 
  • Be willing to compromise and willing to wait.  Some ideas with the use of tech can be so overwhelming that a 'wall' immediately goes up and the idea goes no where in terms of approval.  It doesn't mean it's 'dead'.  The solutions that the tech provides to the barriers that exist will continue which means as those barriers surface later it will provide an opportunity to revisit your original idea.
What generation barriers have you encountered and how do you overcome them?

by Brad West: Originally from Southern NJ and Central PA, Brad moved to Palm Coast in 2004 with his family. He has over 15 years of retail management and is currently a manager with Barnes & Noble in St. Augustine. He also assists his wife Kathleen (Realtor with Trademark Realty Group of PC) with her Real Estate business performing a variety of duties such as website design and maintenance for, as well as marketing and advertising, and operations.   You can find Brad on twitter: @bwest2
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