The international marketing firm Youngster recently reported that for the first time in history, the market group known as Generation Y, those ages 10 to 25, is evenly divided across each of its five age-based subgroups. A short 10 years ago, when Generation Y first burst on to the scene, the vast majority of Generation Y was age 10 to 14. This first wave of Generation Y influenced popular culture, giving us nSync and Britney Spears.
In the 10 years that have followed, the early 10-year-olds of Generation Y became 20-year-olds filling out the top ranks of Generation Y. The relatively constant birth rate in the Western World resulted in an even distribution across all stages of the Generation Y. The expanding size of Generation Y has resulted in the dissemination of their influence not only through popular culture, but also the business culture.
To understand the influence this group has, you must understand how Generation Y functions.
The First Digital Natives
Generation Y has been referred to as the first humans native of the digital landscape. This means that a Generation Y has never known a world that did not include the Internet, cellular phones and immediately available parallel communications. All who came before Generation Y are no more than digital tourists, but Generation Y is as comfortable and capable in the digital world as in the physical world.
Any parent of a Generation Y teenager has marveled as their child adeptly talks on their cell phone, often on a three-way call, while sending SMS text messages and sending e-mail directly from their cell phone. These amazing youngsters do all this while playing online RPGs (role-playing games) that combine video, audio and text conferencing. An amazing six simultaneous lines of communication involving 30 or more simultaneous participants that demonstrates how Generation Y has evolved the very concepts of networking, collaboration and community.
The RPG player must learn and master no less than 70 new rules or skills. These 70 skills do not increase the player’s likelihood of success in the game; rather these 70 skills are the bare minimum to negotiate the first level of the game. To advance through the game requires the monitoring of no fewer than 100 individual incoming streams of data from 360 degrees in all three planes of three-dimensional space (X, Y and Z axis). In addition, the most recent generations of game systems allow players to collaborate in real-time with individuals not only within their country but across the Internet in other countries.
These collaborations are not bounded by language differences. As a result, to work collaboratively within a given group and have that group work collaboratively against other groups, the players must learn either a language unique to the game or one utilized in common by all players within their team.
Generation Y members utilize services such as MySpace and Facebook to serve as their digital homes. Similarly, they use professional networking services such as Xing, LinkedIn and Konnect as their digital offices. For a member of Generation Y, Facebook is a home in their personal neighborhood, while MySpace is their bedroom. It is not unusual for Generation Y individuals who initially met in a professional environment to exchange Facebook and even MySpace contact information to facilitate a larger social interaction.
Even more indicative of this tidal change is the number of Generation Y relationships that begin as personal social exchanges only to evolve into professional relationships and even business collaborations. Generation Y professionals don’t believe in going it alone. Spouses will get to know each other having never met face-to-face. Children will play videogames and even together learn in simulation enhanced learning environments.
What would happen if the much ballyhooed No Child Left Behind curriculum were handed over to videogame programmers and utilized as the rules, processes and systems of a series of role-playing adventure video games?
The problem with the application of such a model within our current educational system is that for Generation Y, the RPG is not technology, rather it is a tool; while for those who provide education, RPG systems represent what was once considered a “super computer”. This is a chasm almost too wide to forge.
As Generation Y moves from their current position as entry-level managers to corporate leadership, they will bring with them these networking skills.
LinkedIn is their North American office, while Xing is their European branch office and Konnect their Asian branch office. It is not unusual for a Generation Y professional to have more than 10,000 direct first-person contacts developed through Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 networks. This is not a collection of random business cards, but rather individuals with whom they have developed business and personal relationships, even friendships. These professionals not only discuss business ventures, successes and failures, but seek each others’ advice in open mentoring opportunities and even share personal feelings in these virtual spaces.
These young professionals have truly tapped a globalized market through the use of the Internet and social networking services. The only question, is the global market ready for true globalization?
About the author:
Dr. Maurice A. Ramirez is a professional speaker and the founder and president of the consulting firm High Alert LLC. He consults with businesses of all sizes on readiness and recovery from disasters that are either man-made or natural, planned or unexpected. Dr. Ramirez has a new book: "You Can Survive Anything, Anywhere, Every Time." His Web site is www.High-Alert.com.