Business executives and industry analysts keep talking about disruptive technologies, which refers to technological innovations which replace other items, without intending to do so. Take the mobile phone – it has turned watches, phone books, alarm clocks, cameras, flash lights, calendars, pen drives and even computers redundant; inspiring the comment from Ellen Degeneres “So excited for the Apple Watch. For centuries, we’ve checked the time by looking at our phones. Having it on your wrist? Genius.”, when the Apple watch was unveiled recently.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that children today start using computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones while still in diapers. On the other hand, people who can actually remember how old they were when they started using a computer are falling behind. It is not that they stopped using computers, but their approach is purely utilitarian when compared to the number of uses the younger crowd have for it. Take social networking, or the art of staying connected to everyone in one’s life, whether at a social level or a professional level. According to results published by Pew Research Center, 90% of the 18-29 year olds use these services; whereas only 65% of persons at 50-64 are found to be using social media sites. For users over 65+, this number drops further to 46%.
While numerous studies reinforce these findings, we also find that connection does not necessarily imply collaboration. Examinations of the most common usages of smart phones and the internet point to communication (surprisingly, email still leads the list), research, education, financial transactions, and access to real-time news. Collaboration – the action of working with others to create or produce something – is near the bottom of the list in most studies.
The availability of collaborative technologies – voice, web and videoconferencing applications – has been fueled by the increasing popularity of SaaS-based computing. So why do we not see greater daily use of these technologies as Millennials and Generation X workers overtake Baby Boomers in terms of percentage of the workforce? While each generation does develop a kind of collective identity, generational stereotypes are often merely oversimplified labels. The differences that distinguish people in terms of work styles and abilities are more tightly linked to differences in their length of experience and career stage than to a particular generation.
Employers will need to keep this in mind, finding ways to bring together the talents of all team members in ways that foster collaboration. One way to do this is to establish a collaborative work culture and work style.
Internally promote successful examples of distributed teams that deliver results across time zones from any global location, anywhere. Setting up a competitive work atmosphere tends to bring out the negative emotions of people, making them unwilling to support other team members or share knowledge. On the other hand, a collaborative atmosphere is all about group projects, collective support, and results which surpass an individual effort. This makes collaboration the way to go.
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