British Prime Minister Tony Blair told a self-deprecating anecdote about himself at the Davos Economic Forum. He had decided to overcome his own computer phobia and enrolled for an IT course in his constituency’s community centre. At the final examination, he asked a nervous young man next to him if he was so tense because he was next to the PM. “No,” replied the youth, “I’m tense because I can do this stuff and I’m unemployed; you can’t do it, and you are Prime Minister”.
What makes you digitally literate? Is it just the generation you were born into? I’m convinced that it is not that simple. The quote above is from Patrick Lambe’s book The Blind Tour Guide: Surviving and Prospering in the New Economy. You can also read the relevant article on Patrick’s site.
In this article, Patrick provides a list of characteristics of the “Net generation” worker, and contrasts these with the pre-Net generation manager. I find it intriguing to try to place myself on this table. I am convinced that it is not as simple as physical age. I can see parts of my world view on both sides.
I am sure that my IT background goes some way towards explaining why I see myself as part of the Net generation, but I believe that a lot of it is to do with personal attitude, and willingness to learn.
While it isn’t specifically on Patrick’s list, I am of the opinion that another characteristic of the Net generation is a willingness to blur the line between personal and professional lives – or a lack of awareness that such a line should exist. The Net generation ignores boundaries, collaborates indiscriminately, values openness, trusts others and is happy to personalise work relationships.
These characteristics can also be manifested by the use of social media. The definition of the Net generation is similar to the trendwatching.com description of “Generation C” – where the ‘C’ means content. This is the generation of self-publishing – MySpace, blogs, wikis, and more.