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Millennials 2.0: The rise of Generation N

Kenny MacIver — June 2015

The generation now entering the workforce is not defined by its innate digital aptitude but by being ‘network native,’ argues Peter Hinssen.

Throughout this decade, as the post-Internet generation has started to enter the workforce, the assumption has been that their unique attribute is being the first generation to ‘grow up digital.’ But according to business author Peter Hinssen, their worldview is different in an even more fundamental way.

“When many young people join a company today, they feel like time-travelers. Outside of work they live in the 21st century, but they go to work in the 20th century. Work, for them, is the brief period during the day where they have to use old technology,” observes Hinssen in our exclusive Big Thinker video interview.

But the biggest gap that this generation of ‘digital natives’ feels is not actually clunky IT, he argues. “As the next generation enters companies they’re not going to complain about whether something is digital or not, but [their lack of access to] network effects.”

His contention is that these are “truly network natives,” whose lives are played out on the network, who source information, share, collaborate and problem-solve on the network. “These are individuals who are used to the network’s fluidity, who understand the rules and dynamics of the network. But they’re entering companies where the structures, systems and mechanisms are hierarchical. That’s a big culture clash,” he says, and one that represents a huge impediment for business innovation.
Buckling structures

As a result, businesses will need to embrace ‘Generation Network,’ Hinssen argues, and in doing so understand the phenomenon extends further than employees. The same dynamic applies equally to the next generation of consumers and business partners, with all the implications that has for organizational structures.

As that happens many companies will find themselves buckling, Hinssen says. “Many companies are based on structures that were really good in the 20th century where it was about efficiency and Lean and Six Sigma. But when things start to move fast, such hierarchies with their org charts and fixed job descriptions simply don’t work any more,” he outlines.

“In a world where networks are accelerating the pace of innovation, those exploiting that new paradigm will be highly disruptive. And existing organizations will need to rethink their old structures and adapt to the metaphors of the network” — and to Generation N, that knows little else.

Peter Hinssen’s new book, The Network Always Wins, is out now.

First published
June 2015
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About: Peter Hinssen
An entrepreneur, writer and business school lecturer, Peter Hinssen advises organizations on the society-wide impact of networked digital technologies. A partner at disruptive innovation consultancy nexxworks, he is the author of ‘The New Normal’ and ‘The Network Always Wins.’

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