This post was co-written by Doug Frye
Defining generations based on their unique traits has always given us an easy, shorthand way to assess each group’s cultural impact. The “Greatest Generation” was about strength and sacrifice; Baby Boomers, about breaking down rigid social structures. Generation X was known, at least briefly, as the “slacker” generation, and Generation Y (the Millennials), for their rejection of consumerism.
Each of these generations has brought its own perspective and approach to life and work. But technological advances like the Internet, smartphones and social media are erasing some of those rigid definitions. Now emerging is a new generation – one not confined to a particular span of time. Meet Generation C.
Technology changes everything
Generation C is a new breed of connected communicators who are content-driven, computerized, community-oriented and always clicking. In recent years, we’ve associated these traits with Millennials, those digital natives born after 1980 and who came of age in an era of 24/7 connectivity and instant access to information. But more and more, we’re discovering Generation C captures a wider net of digitally connected individuals.
Once a great chasm, the divide between digital natives and digital immigrants is quickly shrinking. For example, today seniors are one of the fastest-growing groups on social media. According to the Pew Research 2014 Social Media Update, 56 percent of all online adults 65 and older are on Facebook, just as their grandchildren are moving on to newer forms of social media like Instagram and Snapchat. Further, Smartphones and tablets have deeply penetrated all demographics. In fact, the share of over-65-mobile subscribers who owned a smartphone nearly doubled between 2013 and 2014, according to recent reports. And every age group has critical insights to share.
As author and innovation expert Jeff DeGraff pointed out in the Huffington Post, “The paradox here is that digital immigrants, for the most part, invented the complex technologies and systems that digital natives use fluently — the Internet, microchips and the ubiquitous cloud comes to mind. In this way, digital natives and digital immigrants must grow to work together and learn from each other.”
A state of mind
Connecting isn’t just the provenance of youth. I would argue that Generation C is less about birth year and more about mindset. Whether we’re Baby Boomers launching our second (or third or fourth) acts or we’re part of any other standard-definition generation, this new way of approaching life and work applies to all of us. Technology is a big part of this change, but it’s only one part.
Generation C understands that forging deep, meaningful connections with others, whether they’re colleagues, clients, friends or family, is fundamental to success in the 21st century. They prioritize clear and consistent communication, and have mastered the tools to do that. And they know that building and nurturing communities is key not only to business success but to personal fulfillment.
That focus on “doing well by doing good” is an attitude often attributed to Millennials, but humans have instinctively understood the importance of taking care of one another for eons. It’s a state of mind, one that defines the best leaders and organizations. And it’s a choice.
A choice, not a birthright
It’s true that the Millennial generation is a powerful force — more than 92 million strong, according to a recent Goldman Sachs report. And according to the U.S. Census, that’s 15 million more than the baby boomers, a generation whose considerable accomplishments they will quickly overshadow. By 2020, this generation is projected to make up 50 percent of the workforce – a millennial majority. Today, they’re already starting to run companies.
But the attitudes and abilities that make millennials such a force to be reckoned with are available to all of us. Anyone can join Generation C. The price of entry? An openness to connecting, communicating and collaborating in new ways. Generation C is about a willingness to set aside some of the “but-this-is-how-we’ve-always-done- its” and to embrace a “what-if-we-did-it-this-way” approach. It requires a commitment to a model for success where a collective focus on helping others actually produces a culture of winning, bringing both satisfaction and abundance.
Building “Company C”
Just as being part of the connected generation is a choice we make as individuals, it’s also a choice we make as companies. Today, leaders need to be “Generation C” in their own thinking. This means embracing digital connectedness in all facets of business. Employees, clients and partners of all generations are not only better connected than ever before, they expect the companies they work for and do business with to accommodate and celebrate that connectedness. In other words, meet them where they live.
The potential benefits are limitless. And the risk of not building a Generation C-friendly company is significant. Generation C – those who are connecting to technology, knowledge and each other – is already on its way to changing the world. It’s time for everyone to participate.
Dylan Taylor is President & COO of Colliers International. He leads more than 16,300 professionals in 502 offices in 67 countries. In 2011, Dylan was named one of the top Young Global Leaders in the World by World Economic Forum. Connect with Dylan on LinkedIn.