In November of 1975 Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to open a software business in Albuquerque with his friend Paul Allen. They called the business Micro-Soft. In January of 1977, Apple moved out of Steve Job’s garage and into offices on Stevens Creek Boulevard in Cupertino, California and began selling personal computer to the masses. Somewhere between those seminal events, the first of the so-called millennium or “Y” generation was born.
The Y generation is the first generation that has lived with personal computers and the Internet its entire life. It is no coincidence that they are driving today’s social technology. The Y generation was born with digital technology. Being digitally connected is part of their DNA.
In 1993, Riku Pihkonen, an engineering student at Nokia, sent the first SMS text message over a phone. The first of the Y generation were reaching their mid teens. Texting became their way of staying connected. Being reachable became a generational norm. By mid 2008, 75 billion text messages were sent every month in the United States.
Digital networking moved from the phone to the Internet in 1997 when SixDegrees.com launched a site that allowed users to create profiles, list their friends, and search their friend’s lists. Today’s LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are all descendents of SixDegrees, driven by a generation’s need to stay connected.
Today, the Y generation is firmly entrenched in the workforce. By 2018 they will constitute half of the working population. Their generational values are reflected in the social networks they use. As a generality, they are:
• Team oriented
• Willing to share knowledge freely
• More interested in their passions than in money
• Have no interest in hierarchy
These characteristics, developed in the socially flat world of the Internet, are driving new communication and problem solving models. Social learning, collaborative learning, professional learning networks, are all buzz words that have made their way into the workplace with the Y generation. 2010 will bring with it a virtual tsunami of organizational change as businesses connect their employees, partners, distributers, and customers.
The Y generation discovered something. We do make better decisions if we stay connected and work together. They also know that we, as individuals, want to contribute and be heard – regardless of our generation.