Modern Organisations - Cultural Deserts

Organisations in the ‘information age’ are having difficulty retaining young workers. They arrive full of youthful enthusiasm, willing and able yet within months if not weeks are considering moving on for any number of reasons (and don’t give me that gen XY garbage. Many who are twice the age of the XY age groups exhibit most of their attributes - albeit with flab. I argue gen XY is attitude first, age second and mainly driven by postmodernism, not birth date.)
However, here’s one reason they might not be hanging around.

The average person in first world countries, not just twenty year olds, now has access to a wealth of information systems and services with which they can participate in humankind’s favourite pastime - communication. We were born to communicate. Speech and literature are the main characteristics that separate us from the primates and we love to use them. This is not new. But the ubiquitous, inexpensive and relatively easy-to-use technology we have at our disposal is.

These netgen kids take this stuff for granted. Old codgers with attitude also get pretty excited. It is like living in a rich rain forest, full of life, noise and activity. Communicate with multiple people, known or unknown, anytime anywhere. Share new ideas and discover a whole world of collaboration.

And then they arrive in corporate world circa 2007. What a contrast. Hopefully they will get a computer, one without Internet access restrictions. They may get email or even groupware. They may not. They will probably get at least some form of office applications.

What they won’t get is their rich array of communication and Web 2.0 tools they have on their home PC. That means they won’t have access to their peer and support groups, nor their knowledge network built up through an arrangement of trust and sharing with friends and strangers (new friends) from all over the planet. They won’t be able to move about, listen to music nor multitask for fear of being called a troublemaker in the cubicle-farm office. Their information sources and interaction channels will dry up.

In effect they will have come from their equivalent of a rainforest to an information and interaction desert. The average organisation.

Once corporations had all the latest technology, the only global networks and all the bandwidth. Now they are playing catchup to the average living room in terms of functionality and bandwidth. They are so hamstrung by security and misuse fears that they have to put their whole network into lock down, missing all the benefits of a collaborative world.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg These kids can smell a conservative, dead end culture a mile off. If they can’t get some freedom in return for their servitude, if they are not acknowledged for the expertise and value they bring (because their bosses can’t understand it let alone exploit it), or they can’t use their tools of choice, then they will be off like a shot.

Consideration of, and allowance for, people’s preferred working style is a smart business move. Regardless of their age, happy, respected people make great staff. So if you own or manage an organisation which employs humans under the age of sixty I advise considering how you can turn the workplace from a cultural desert into a rich and dynamic forest full of art, creativity and growth.


If you want to learn more on topics such as social networking, interaction technology or independent music and film, consider a trip to Texas for this little conference in March 2007.

“Attracting digital creatives as well as visionary technology entrepreneurs, the SXSW Interactive Festival enables you to connect, discover and inspire your link to the cutting edge.”

SXSW Interactive, Film and Music

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