This post intends to simply start a conversation. I am not making any claims one way or the other, nor do I draw any conclusions for the reader. I would like to state a few observations and get your experiences and perspectives on the subject.
First, to be transparent, I am from the Gen-Z era.
I have observed that many companies today employ people from multiple generations, especially since older generations work longer. These people are employed throughout the organization in various ratios, roles, and responsibilities. For this post, let's focus on those appointed into leadership positions dealing with decision-making and organizational challenges who ultimately determine the business strategy.
Typically, groups of multi-generational employees gather around the table (or virtually) at these companies and distill their collective ideas into solutions that intend to drive the company forward, solve problems, and develop business strategies - potentially using an analog or digital bias.
Boomers, GenX, Millennials, and GenZ all come to that table with galactic differences in views, opinions, and experiences. As a consultant for two-plus decades, I am in a unique position to say that I have witnessed firsthand businesses across multiple industries transform from analog to digital - for many, it was no easy task. It took time, commitment, and, most importantly, the will. Now those same companies are already facing pressure to move to version 2.0 of digital, furthering the divide between them and the remaining analog companies in various stages of adoption.
What keeps some companies in an analog state? Money, lack of know-how, or something else?
Does one generation cohort (Boomer - GenZ) have an advantage over the other to drive the company to be digital and therefore more competitive, relevant, a leader in its market, and or profitable over the other?
Digital Native vs. Analog Native Thinkers - Dichotomy:
Now considering that some in the older generation cohort, such as Boomers, and GenX, quite possibly didn't use a computer, make a cell phone call, or download an "app" well into their forties or fifties - compared to the youngest working generation Z, born with technology in hand.
Let's not get into the personal and experiential differences between the bookends of these generations to avoid provocations. Instead, let's focus solely on the impact of the Analog vs. Digital nature of the ages and the business direction they recommend.
Is there a generational bias detectable in Analog vs. Digital era people?
For example, do you believe older generations born into analog times tend to gravitate toward manual solutions to solve problems, resulting in heavy lifting, people, paper, and burdensome processes? Do they look to stay in their analog comfort zones?
In contrast, do you think younger digital natives lead with digital solutions like software, automation, AI, ML, and robotics to solve business problems, or do you think that Millennial-GenZ's attempt to boil the oceans with flashing lights and laser beams when a pen and pad will suffice?
Digital thinkers can exist in older generations, even though they are not native to them.
The opposite is true also. Some born in the digital age have rejected technology and chose a more primitive lifestyle void of tech - when possible.
Let's exclude these outliers for the sake of this conversation and focus on the possible biases within these generational cohorts and what it looks like when they are sitting around a table together trying to solve business problems.
What does it cost?
Can businesses suffer one way or the other when they do not have these generational perspectives represented in their decision-making processes? Do overly represented cohorts tend to drive the direction one way or the other to maintain their comfort levels at the expense of the organization's health and progress?
If this topic interests you and you have an opinion, please comment on LinkedIn. I posted some questions below asking you to consider your experiences and the observed outcomes.
Here are some questions to start the conversation:
1. What ratio of Digital vs. Analog generations are represented in your management\leadership team today? (Sample: 60% Boomer, 20% GenX, 15% Millennial, GenZ 5%)
2. What experience, if any, do you personally have when these vastly different groups of analog and digital natives collided in your workplace to solve problems?
3. What challenges\results arose from the differences between the cohorts in their thinking and otherwise?
4. How do you rank the results of your team's positive, negative, or neutral outcomes – please share generational ratios?
5. If your leadership team has a disproportionate ratio, has it produced a more analog vs. digital outcome, respectively?
6. Does your company measure the results of its working teams and consider the composition of the team's digital or analog ratios?
7. Do you believe it is better to have the full spectrum of thinkers\generations around the table? If so, why?
8. Do you believe there is a right mix\ratio? If so, why?
9. As a manager\leader, have you faced resistance or animosity between these groups of thinkers? If so, how have you dealt with it?
10. As employees, have you ever tried to manage up to
convince management that their conclusions did not involve your perspective (digital or analog)? What was the outcome?
11. What generation do you identify with?
Boomer - 1940– 1959 | GenX - 1960-1979 | Millennials - 1980 – 1994 | GenZ - 1995 - 2010
Thank you for your comments!