I know that plenty of folks out there do not buy into the argument of the generational divide; most people think it’s just something that has been designed and developed to sell the concept of Enterprise 2.0 to businesses (Specially, if you think about the good old KM meme of "Knowledge Transfer" of senior employees about to retire to younger ones). So naming conventions like Traditionalist, Boomer, Gen X or Millennial all seem to be bogus, but are they really? I mean, when was the last time, while at work, you stopped doing what you were doing and started looking around at the various peer knowledge workers close to you?
I bet that in most cases you may have found two or three different generations working together in the same project, being part of the same team or belonging to the same communities. So how do they get along well with one another then? How are they managed? Not sure what you would think, but I *do* believe there is such distinction of how various generations get to collaborate and share knowledge across with their peers in the same working environment.
That’s also the incredibly provocative phenomenon that this YouTube video titled "How Will You Manage?" (Put together by Kronos) tries to cover over the course of nearly 5 minutes. If you are an skeptic on the concept of the generational divide I would strongly encourage you all to have a look and watch it. It may, or may not, change your perspective on things, specially around those folks working closer with you. However, one thing I can certainly assure you is that it would make you think twice about the whole subject and I am certain you won’t be looking at your peers in the same fashion as before any longer. And if not, judge for yourselves…
What I have found really interesting about this YouTube video is how having multiple generations at work (Here inside IBM I got colleagues I work rather closely with who would cover up to four different generations working together! So you can imagine some scenarios sometimes…) will surely present new challenges for one specific part of the workforce: managers.
That’s right! Somehow it looks like the current corporate environment (And, definitely, the future workplace) will probably require a new breed of leaders that would hopefully be able to manage those generations (Working mostly in a distributed virtual world across the globe) in much more meaningful ways than ever before, perhaps even leaving behind that traditional flavour of command-and-control and, instead, take on much more of that leadership role that perhaps managers of the future should be having as one of their primary and fundamental skills.
Definitely, the kind of new leadership that Jemima Gibbons describes quite nicely in her recent book "Monkeys with Typewriters" (Book that I can certainly highly recommend everyone to read, if you would want to see how social computing is changing not just the way we do business, but also who we are as social knowledge workers) when describing the kind of leadership role that Gina Poole (IBM’s VP, Social Software Programs & Enablement (BlueIQ), SWG Web Marketing & Sales), amongst several other leaders, defines for herself with her own team:
"More pure leadership than command and control…in the old management era, knowledge was power. Now in the social era you want to unleash the knowledge. The powerful person is the one who can lead by influence. You don’t need a big budget and lots of direct reports. I can lead more effectively by influencing others, getting them excited and having them join my movement. It feels like you’re managing more of a matrix. Listening is very important"
The main challenge though remains as to whether traditional management, and all businesses for that matter, would be willing to let go that command-and-control attitude and, instead, allow their own employees to become those new leaders of today’s interconnected, distributed corporate world. I am sure most folks, at this point in time, would probably be thinking about the risks involved and how to managed them. Me, instead, would be thinking about the huge potential of how social computing is helping define the future of the workplace by co-sharing plenty of that leadership responsibility with people, who were hired for being, and acting, as professionals in the first place. I think it’s time for the corporate world to grow up and start treating their various generations at work as who they really are: people. The Social Web.
Tags: Management, Leadership, Leaders, Generations, Generational Divide, Kronos, Jemima Gibbons, Monkeys with Typewriters, Gina Poole, IBM, Social Software, Social Computing, Social Networking, Enterprise 2.0, Knowledge Management, KM, Knowledge Transfer, Social Web, Collaboration, Knowledge Sharing, Learning, Innovation