…great talent but not as we know it…

I’ve been reading Global Remix by Richard Scase over the last week or so; it’s one of those books where you can visualise the author speaking out the words. If you’ve met Richard, you’ll know what I mean. It’s a larger-than-life high-speed book concentrated on his vision of the future.

In a chapter headed Global Remix: the new corporate playlist, Richard makes some interesting comments on Generation M:

More young people attend universities and institutions of higher education than ever before. If ever there were a link between talent and qualification, this has been made tenuous by governments’ commitment to expand higher education opportunities. No longer can companies assume that university graduates have employable skills. High-performing companies demand additional qualities. They want potential employees with imagination and ideas that will make up the talent pools for future innovation and growth. Do universities encourage these qualities? Some do, but on the whole it is left to a minority of elite institutions to perform this task. But there is also the bedroom.

Many parents have teenage and younger children who spend quite a lot of time in their bedrooms. They respond to parental commands through text messaging, e-mails and, occasionally, grunts. Parents with children of this kind should be congratulated for bringing up normal, well-adjusted youngsters. But they fear for their children’s futures. Will they ever be employable? But — what is going on in the bedroom?

More often than not, the unleashing of talents far greater than those of their parents when they were of a similar age. Some of them are producing their own music CDs; not simply downloading them but actually creating them. Others are doing the same with DVDs, while even others are playing games on the internet, assembled in global-based virtual teams.


What this means this that companies will have to change. As discussed earlier, they will need to be cafe corporations. But, more than that, they will have to tolerate non-conformity and individuality in terms of attitudes, behaviour, dress codes and lifestyles. Small businesses are more likely to allow for these personal differences than large companies. That’s why the iPod generation is more attracted to working in small firms; they are given more space and personal autonomy.

I think Richard’s on to something when he talks about what’s going on in the bedroom. Sure, you’ve heard a lot of it before, but I think there’s a subtler point.

In the previous generation of entrepreneurship, all the creativity and talent was in the garage. That’s where the elephant organisations of today were conceived and birthed. In the garage. With all its attendant tools and toolsets and minds and mindsets, never straying far from their DNA of Taylor and Coase and McLuhan.

It’s different for Generation M. This time the creativity and talent has been in the bedroom, not the garage. The DNA is different. Today’s entrepreneurs have no idea who Taylor was, don’t care who Coase was, and don’t like what McLuhan stood for.

And much as I’d like them to, they don’t know who Jerry Garcia was, haven’t heard of Richard Stallman and Eric Raymond or even Linus Torvalds, but they know Linux. They know Skype. They know Open. They know Convenient. They know Simple. And they know Stupid.

They know.

Barry Schwartz understands our generation and why we feel imprisoned by choice. And he articulates, very well, why we feel that way. Now, slowly, I’m beginning to understand why Generation M is different. They’re impervious to McLuhan, so they don’t have the same post-marketing expectations. They’re immune to information overload, so they don’t get stressed out by megachoice. They know what they like and what they don’t like.

So I’m going to continue to study them, continue to help them conquer the challenges I know, and hope they can help me conquer the challenges  they know.

4 thoughts on “…great talent but not as we know it…”

  1. About a year ago, when I had to give deliver a position paper on the future of higher education, I suggested that just about anything that gets taught (or, for that matter learned), regardless of the setting in which the education happens, has a half-life. This was my attempt to deal with the relationship between what we learn and what we use and the extent to which what we do depends on things we learned in the near or distant past. It was in this context that I read JP’s comment above:

    And much as I’d like them to, they don’t know who Jerry Garcia was, haven’t heard of Richard Stallman and Eric Raymond or even Linus Torvalds, but they know Linux. They know Skype. They know Open. They know Convenient. They know Simple. And they know Stupid.

    They know.

    My point is that I really do not give a damn about what the “generation of the bedroom” (or, for that matter, JP) knows TODAY. I am not even concerned about whether or not they possess “employable skills,” because I have been around the block enough times to know that those skills have a relatively short half-life. (My guess is that they tend to be longer than the popularity of, say, Brittany Spears, but shorter than just about anything else!) Unfortunately, I seem to be in a rather small minority when it comes to believing that viewing education through this lens of half-life matters.

    Now I agree that there is probably considerable diversity of opinion over what knowledge and skills have enduring half-life, at least once we get beyond the basics of reading and writing (which may, themselves, be in jeopardy from too heady a blend of Generation M and Web 2.0 thinking). After all, even basic arithmetic seems to have fallen off under the assumption that technology is always there to do it for us. However, I have a candidate for one precept that I HOPE has a half-life that can be measured in millenia, rather than days: ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES. This is a lesson that CAN be learned in the bedroom (although not necessarily in the way that Sacase had in mind); but I suspect that the prevailing culture is inhibiting such education.

    As Vonnegut put it, so it goes.

  2. Random thought – would be an interesting band, Jerry Garcia (Guitar & Vocals), Stallman (Bass), Linus (Drums) and Raymond (Keyboards) – “Jerry and the Linux Skypers” :-)

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