This post was originally posted at Conversation Agent. Thanks so much to Valeria Maltoni for hosting the series on Using Foresight to Provoke Strategy and Innovation.
Technology is changing the world with amazing speed, and the more technology advances, the more we come to expect from it. This has a broad impact for the people, politics and businesses of the future, especially as Generation Y enters the workforce. Generation Y is a generation of inflection as far as generations go, as we are a generation that has grown up with the so-called technologies of the future. We are the first generation to have been brought up with Internet, social connectivity, and instant information. Our generation is essentially defining the pace of information, and as we enter the workforce, we expect the rest of the working world to be in-step.
Speed and Connections
Older generations call us impatient, but our eagerness and expectation for immediacy is really only a product of the technologies that raised us. Simply put, we are a broadband generation. We are accustomed to fast connections, where web pages load without delay and communication is virtually instantaneous. And outside our web browsers, we expect a similar pace. We want replies now. We want prices now. We want our grades and purchases – now. Any hiccup in this feedback loop frustrates us. So, these older generations are dubbing our progress as impatience, making no concessions for perspective. Metaphorically, we process the world with T1 connections, while everyone else is still stuck with dial-up.
Our connections have given us confidence and belief in our ideas. In the connected age, ideas are so free-flowing that the intern in the mail room could have the idea that changes the world. In the past, that intern was mostly powerless, but now that intern lives in a world of collaboration. In our generation, a person with an excellent idea can get people from around the world to contribute, rebuttal, and help implement that idea from one minute to the next. For those without the connections, it means an idea is not actionable. But our generation has the connections. And as we come into the workforce in full force, we have the expectations that the workforce will move just as fast as the world we’ve been brought up in. There has been a convergence between space and time with the advancement of information, technology, and connectivity. The implications these technologies create spread far and wide.
The Future of Connections for Business
When access to information increases, we can expect things to become more efficient. My parents owned a fabric and textile store on the Mexican border during the 80’s and 90’s. The majority of their business came from Mexican day-shoppers who came to the US for products they couldn’t find in Mexico. For years they made great money. However, once NAFTA was instituted, Mexican shoppers could get these same products in Mexico directly from the people my parents bought from. Now, there was no reason for Mexican shoppers to come to the US side. They had access to the source.
This trend will continue in the future and will affect many businesses. Retailers will have a harder time doing business as middlemen between consumers and products. Consumers will want and demand access to manufacturers. Consumers will bypass the dealers and get straight to the source, so as a retailer who sells a broad selection of items, it means you will have to be in the business of selling experience and convenience over merchandise. CompUSA going out of business is a good example of this trend. Consumers of the future will naturally make connections with manufacturers, giving direct feedback, and expecting to have retailer-like experiences. As this continues, retailers will cannibalize each other as margins become thinner and consumers demand transparency.
This transparency will spill into politics as well. In the past, territory and space separated cultures, but people from all over the world are now connecting and finding out that we have more in common than we could have imagined. We are creating real relationships with real people, and the effect this will have on geopolitics in the future will be profound. Interests are no longer aligned based on an area or territory, but on the human interests that connect us. Those in power will need to be cognizant of these grassroots connections, as any decision that ignores these connections has the opportunity to ostracize.
In all aspects of the world, time and space are converging and changing the way people create connections and make decisions. Businesses and employers will have to evolve with the changes in the way people are connecting and the way they seek information—that is, straight from the source rather than going through intermediaries. Younger generations are coming to expect a transparent world where access to information and connections are instantaneous. Future generations will only come to expect more. Even our generation will have trouble adapting and keeping up with those new speeds. We are at an inflection point, but this is only the beginning. Ultimately, technology is enabling us to transcend boundaries and connect information with people. Through these connections, the future will empower individual decision makers, giving them the ability to implement their own ideas, whether they are business, political, or personal.