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Ride the Technology Wave or Drown
The PreparedU Project has been and will continue to focus on issues affecting the millennial generation. At the same time, forces that have shaped Gen Yers are now having a profound effect, not just on the Generation Z cohort that follows, but on people of all ages, in all walks of life. This is the third in an eight-part series that will examine this rapidly encompassing phenomenon.
Your reality is about to change so radically that we have no words to describe it. Society is rapidly approaching a level of connectivity that will blur the lines between online and offline worlds until they are eliminated.
The explosion of interconnected devices is at its earliest stages. You cannot begin to imagine what the new reality will look like and neither can the rest of us. Our current society lacks the shared behaviors and experiences to talk about it. We do know technology and communication will be integrated into our very beings.
This intensely hyperconnected world is the domain of Generation Z, say Thomas Koulopoulos and Dan Keldsen in “The Gen Z Effect: The Six Forces Shaping the Future of Business.”
Like it or not, we inhabit an intensely hyperconnected world, say the authors, and it’s time to welcome a wealth of new possibilities. In fact, they don’t mince words, warning us: “Swimming against the Gen Z tide of hyperconnectivity is like swimming against a tsunami — only an idiot does it. If you want to survive the tsunami, you have to ride the wave — it’s your only option, no matter how frightening it might appear.”
We met with Koulopoulos, Bentley University alumnus, former Bentley faculty member, and current president of the Delphi Group, to hear more about how to prepare for the unknown.
Get ready for intelligence among inanimate objects
If you define devices as all those that gather data, process it, and store it, you are likely to interact, on average, with more than 200 devices a day, most of which you never actually see. Just consider the number of appliances, automobiles, surveillance cameras, ATMs, and traffic sensors you commonly encounter, say Koulopoulos and Keldsen. It is a short step from these sensors, which are not yet connected, to sensors that talk to one another in real time.
As more devices and sensors are connected directly to the Internet, they tell us, the ease of interconnecting them increases dramatically. Soon devices that were never designed to work together suddenly do, creating a level of intelligence among inanimate objects that is foreign in today’s context.
Q: Are we prepared to deal with the societal implications of all these interconnected devices?
A: Gen Z will have to be involved in creating social contracts that define how and when we use these new technologies. They will have to be far more engaged and active and vigilant than prior generations. The fact that you can do something, for instance, in social media, does not mean it is necessarily the right thing to do.
We do not want a future in which Facebook or Google or similar players become far more powerful than George Orwell ever thought Big Brother would be. So that level of vigilance is one responsibility, and I think we’ll rise to it. The other responsibility is that we must get the rest of the world online and educated and economically engaged.
Get ready to test the latest devices
It is a mistake to view the behaviors that result from hyperconnectivity as distractions rather than as a way to increase engagement and trust, say the authors.
New technologies are disruptive to our learned behaviors, and the value of the new experience is sometimes difficult to appreciate. People get entrenched in the familiar way of doing things.
But people of all ages are adopting new behaviors when it comes to technology. We must learn to embrace change.
Q: Do you think people will appreciate these new technologies?
A: I think we’re at the very early stages of truly understanding how we create value. Gen Z is as much about understanding the behavior and value of new technology as it is about using it.
Get ready for young people to set up as mentors
Older people must be willing to learn from the young in order to keep up with new technologies, says Koulopoulos. He calls this strategy reverse mentoring — and tells us a story to illustrate the point.
In the early ’90s, he says, the Delphi Group, which now has offices in the U.S., Canada, England, South America, and Asia, was in start-up mode. The firm was looking for a new hire to take over computer systems but none of the experienced candidates made the cut.
Then Keldsen applied. He was a twentysomething with blonde hair that grew to below his shoulders and a degree from Berklee College of Music and no relevant work experience. But he had a passion for cutting-edge technology. Over the next decade, Keldsen built Delphi’s information systems to support its multinational business and became a reverse mentor to Koulopoulos.
Q: How has reverse mentoring made a difference for you as CEO of the Delphi Group?
A: Dan, who is 15 years my junior, has been my reverse mentor for 20 years. He first introduced me to social media and LinkedIn. He’s been the person I go to if I want to know, “What’s changing in the world of technology?”
There is no telling what the future holds but we can catch a small glimpse by looking at wearable devices for connecting to and interacting with the Internet, which will increasingly be market tested and adopted by consumers of all ages.
For example, the now defunct Google Glass was an early effort to eliminate the gap between worlds. Early users at first felt disorientated because they had no frame of reference, say the authors, but then grew comfortable. Glass did not end up as the platform of choice, but it gave us a taste of the future.
“I wanted to draw a hard line between offline and online, and I couldn’t,” a Glass user told Koulopoulos and Keldsen. After emotionally adapting to the device the user found it “soon felt oddly natural, as though I had regained a sixth sense I never knew I had been missing.”
How many devices do you interact with as part of your daily experience? The average numbers may surprise you:
- 200 with automobiles, including onboard computers, diagnostics, GPS, safety, and tracking
- 20 with home residential, including appliances, TV, HVAC, lighting, and security
- 20 with traffic/transportation, including roadways, tolls, safety, public transport
- 20 with camera surveillance, including commercial buildings, public spaces, and government
- 10 with industrial sensors and controllers, including elevators, nonresidential buildings, parking garages, airport facilities, commercial security systems, or scanners
- 5 with retail, including POS, facial recognition systems, traffic flow monitors, and eye tracking
- 5 with communications, including network devices, satellite/dish, and VOIP
- 3 with computers, including PCs and laptops
- 3 with medical, including implants, blood sugar monitors, BP monitors, defibrillators
- 2 with mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones
- 2 with banking/financial/insurance, including ATMs, POS, smartcards, and insurance tracking
- 2 with wearable sensors, including fitness, activity, and headsets
- 1 with pets, including tracking implants and GPS
A few questions to consider as we accelerate into a world of connectivity:
- How hyperconnected are you, personally?
- Is that level of hyperconnectivity providing what you want for your social life and for your career?
- Is it keeping you informed about the world in the way you want?
- How many computing devices do you interact with on a daily basis?
- How are you taking advantage of these devices in your life and work?
- Is living your life in two worlds something you are able to manage?
- Can you think of examples where you have placed new technologies into old behaviors and discounted their value?
The Gen Z Effect Series
Read all of the installments in this series:
|Ride the Technology Wave or Drown|
|Are You Ready for the Gen Z Slingshot?|
|You're Powerful and They Know It|
|How Online Learning Will Change the World|
|Lifehacking: A Playbook for Gen Z|
|Gen Z Will Make Life Better for All of Us|
When Brenden Botelho ‘20 and Jonny Boains ‘18 took internships in the Mass. Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, what was the biggest community problem to tackle? Adapting to climate change.