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Communications Hurt By The "Generational Firewall": Grown Up Digital And Don Tapscott

I attended the official launch of Don Tapscott‘s latest book,  Grown Up Digital, last night.   He delivered an excellent talk about how he firmly believes that “Netgeners”-those born between 1977 and 1994 and who have never known life without computers-will turn out smarter,faster and more creative than generations before them.

I’ll admit I felt smug (and relieved that I was not too old to be considered a “Netgener”) when Tapscott lambasted Boomers and Gen X for being fearful of implementing Web 2.0. technologies in the workforce.

When he started to talk about how it was creating a “generational firewall”, though,  I began to think about the implications this technology gap could have on internal communications strategies.

Who knows what effective Web 2.0. strategies-and creative communication ideas-companies, clients and even agencies are missing out on because of this “firewall”?   How many companies have unwittingly damaged employee communications because of it?

The more important question, of course, is how do we break down the generational firewall?

Tapscott says it’s just a matter of overcoming fear of the unknown-and of not being threatened that junior employees know more about technology than senior ones.   I think that simplifies the issue too much.

What is key is showing Boomers and Netgeners how to use new technologies.  A  harder task will be teaching them to swallow their pride and to seek advice from more knowledgeable “Netgeners”.  Peer advocates would be more effective in this case.

We could face a 20-year period of disjointed communication and progress unless this generational firewall is eliminated.   Inevitably, it’s going to happen at some organizations.

But there’s no need for it to happen to those of us whose job it is to create effective communications.  It’s time to find out if the generational firewall exists in our workplaces-and what we can do to get rid of it.