Hile Rutledge
Trainer, author

Hile Rutledge

CEO and owner of OKA (Otto Kroeger Associates), a training and consulting firm specializing in leadership and team development.

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A generational rift

Q: We've got Blackberries. And iPhones and Droids and notebook computers and Google. They help make us more successful! Don't they?? The new book "The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains" says the Internet impairs our ability to think long and hard. Do you agree? And if so, does the added productivity justify a little Internet-inspired attention-deficit disorder?

Cable and satellite TV, hand-held communication devices, the internet -- the volume of data and choices and the speed with which we can access these many different data flows are now only limited by our time, our attention spans and the overall din created by all these data streams shouting at us at once.

The Millennial generation, folks born between 1981 and 2000, are often referred to as technology natives. Most in this generation cannot remember a world where technological interconnectivity was not the norm. Nonplussed by the thought of hooking up or taking on any computer-based device or the technological dependency that arises from a world more and more digitized, this generation has grown up in the information fast lane.

Having choices and access to data are great things, and from doing research and managing your own learning process to advertising and communicating more broadly to more people without barriers or gatekeepers -- the speed and access this new digital age allows us is tremendous, and I'm in favor of it. It does all come, however, at a cost. The easier it is to find something and the quicker any given question can be answered, the more we train ourselves to want and even expect quick, short and easy answers.

My older son, a young Millennial, recently wanted for his birthday an Action Replay, a device that offers cheat codes, enabling video game players to get right to the end of the game and open up features normally available through an earned mastery of the game.

I was incredulous. "What is the point of playing the game if you get cheats that let you skip all the challenges and take you right to the end?" I asked. "Isn't this like buying a crossword puzzle book that is already mostly filled in?" My son was equally as baffled at my ignorance. "Why would I not use these codes if they enable me to get the end faster and with more of the game's features available to me?" he wondered. "This lets me experience the game much better and much faster."

As a consultant increasingly playing in and with generational issues on the job, I'm often asked to help clients bridge the gap between Baby Boomers who expect younger workers to tackle tough, complex problems, hanging with complexity and amassing their own sets of experiences through trial and error. Millennials can often frustrate the Boomers, though, with their own expectations of immediate results, quick fixes and answers (and promotions) and an attention span that is not oriented to long-term engagement with complexity and ambiguity.

Businesses have embraced the Internet age and its gifts, but are just now realizing that these gifts bring with them a generational tension that needs to be negotiated and managed. It is a rift that this new technological landscape has created and for which there is no quick fix. This is a problem without a cheat code.

By Hile Rutledge  |  July 21, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Technology and success Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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By the by, "nonplussed" means the opposite of how you used it. It means to be at a loss of what to say or do, to be perplexed.

Posted by: TheBanshee | July 21, 2010 4:29 PM
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