Much has been said about the new generation of workers that is just now beginning to enter the workforce, particularly around the technology this generation has been exposed to. This is the generation that was “born into the web,” and likely did not know a world with typewriters, carbon paper and memos that were disseminated in days or weeks rather than milliseconds.
The pundits have pulled all the stops, throwing about the usual hackneyed terms like “sea change” and “revolution” to describe the impact this generation will have on the workforce, however I am a bit less sanguine. This new generation of worker does indeed have more technical competence than past generations, and likely communicates and handles information differently than someone less adept with a computer and web browser. This technical competence however does not supplant knowledge of business fundamentals, the nuances of markets, or the most effective means of financing.
Ansell Adams would likely be amazed and perhaps a bit flummoxed that producing a photograph is as easy as pressing the shutter on a digital camera then clicking Print on one’s computer, yet that does not diminish the quality of his artistic vision, or his mastery of photographic principles. Similarly, even the most adept photographic technician cannot replace Adam’s artistic abilities with raw technical competence. All the megapixels in the world do not make one the next Cartier-Bresson or Adams.
Where the magic of the new generation of worker will take place is when he or she combines their technical competence with the “artistic” mastery of the older generation. While pundits have historically admonished the older generation not to ignore the talents of the new, we would be best served by recognizing the competencies of each, and seeking to blend them to create the next business masterpiece.