This week, Vodafone published research into the future of technology and work. And the bit that really interested us was the types of people Vodafone found could solve problems quickly.
Young teenagers were brilliant at it – especially those who regularly took part in online gaming. These 13-14 year-olds, according to Vodafone, had collaboration scores that were through the roof.
By 2025, the research says, these kids will account for 50% of the workforce.
So does this mean that in the near future, there’ll be an explosion of creativity and collaboration in corporations across the world?
No. Not necessarily – and here’s why:
The Vodafone study also examined the problem-solving approaches of recent graduates. Like their younger brothers and sisters, these are people who’ve also only known life with the internet and advanced technology.
The study suggests that the processes and hierarchies of higher education had already bashed some of the creativity – and ability to collaborate – out of them.
We see this sometimes when we train teams.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that younger people would be more open to change, and to have more of an appetite for doing things differently. But in reality, recent graduates often cling to “their” ways of doing things. Why? Because a) they’ve just come out of a system that has rewarded them and told them they’re brilliant for doing things in a way that passes exams – and b) because they haven’t got enough life experience yet to know that nothing’s forever.
It’s usually easier to persuade someone who’s been in the workforce for 30+ years to change than it is a recent graduate.
So the bright kids of today won’t necessarily set the world on fire. Not unless something changes so that we can stop hierarchies, rules, processes and silos getting in the way.
And while that’s a change that most definitely needs to happen in the workplace – it probably also needs to start in education.
We need to stop putting process on a pedestal and instead begin treating it like the enabler it should be.
Because it’s when process and technical skill become the only important things in organisations that we create silos, we stop communicating and we stop pulling in the same direction. We live in an increasingly fluid world. The ways we work, the ways we organise our corporations, have to become fluid to keep pace.