Cisco Blogs

Gen Y and the Collaboration Age

December 1, 2008 - 4 Comments

By Carlos Dominguez, Senior Vice President, Cisco’s Office of the Chairman of the Board and CEO“œMay we live in interesting times.” -Old Chinese ProverbIt’s amazing to see how quickly everything around us is changing, especially when it comes to technology. In 1976 (incidentally the year I graduated from high school) we enjoyed a total of three television channels: ABC, NBC and CBS. There was no cable or satellite TV with the hundreds of channels we have now, no DVRs, on demand, high def, Hulu, the Internet, e-mail, instant messaging, nor text messaging, YouTube …or many of the other technologies my teenager now uses daily. As a matter of fact, 40% of all TVs sold in 1976 were black and white. I can still see the look on my 15 year old’s face when I described what technology and life were like in 1976. “What did you do all day? Life must have been boring,” she said. My Gen Y or”millennial” daughter plus 82 million of her peers were born between 1980 and 1995 and are shaping our world by leveraging technology in all aspects of their lives. They are perpetually connected, communicating and contributing. They engage in 145 conversations about products per week (1), will wait in line for hours to get the new hot product at the Apple store, avoid ads unless they are funny or entertaining, 64% create and share artwork, photos, videos and stories online (2) and 36% of American teens want to become famous …and half believe that they will. (3) If you are lucky like me, you have one of them at home to observe with amazement, and more importantly, to learn from. The digital divide is real but involves several generations. The millennials have grown up digital. The baby boomers (1946-1964 and 82 miliion of them) and the Gen Xer’ s (1965-1981, 60 million ) have not. This divide is increasingly evident as the Gen Yer’s are joining our workforce and the multiple generations are working together. As a matter of fact, 10% (6,000+) of Cisco’s current workforce were born between 1980 and 1988 and bring with them a new set of tools, expectations and behaviors that we need to understand, and leverage. I highly recommend you seek them out in your company and learn how to optimize their experience. For example, use them as tutors on Web 2.0, as early adopters of any new technology …and seek their opinions. 1 Keller-Fay Group, 20072 Pew Internet, 20073 MTV, 2007I recently met with three fantastic, smart, confident, articulate and very connected Cisco millennials and learned a lot from our interaction. I’d like to share our conversation with you since I think they provide valuable insights. I also invite you to submit questions to the blog so we can all learn from each other and help bridge the digital divide.Here are two videos — the beginning of a series — which will help to paint a picture of the way Millennials are now collaborating.By Carlos Dominguez, Senior Vice President, Cisco’s Office of the Chairman of the Board and CEO.You may also connect with Carlos via his Facebook page.

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  1. As one who was born on the cusp just before baby boomers, I encourage people to see fewer difference between people of all ages.For example, I do not hold Gen Yers’ lack of experience against them.For those born to late, this is a line lifted from and similar to one Ronald Reagan used in a debate with Jimmy Carter. It is meant to be a reversal line, an unexpected reply, and to bring some humor. It is a kind of Zen, deflecting an opponents criticism without accepting it, and doing so nonchalantly with humor.It is also meant to counter the sting of the stereotype of old age. We all too ofter see people as old coots rather than wise elders. It’s a cultural thing, I guess.Yes, my generation did not grow up with technology as later generations did. I, and others of my generation, were quick to adopt the Internet and new technology. I wouldn’t want a world without the Internet.I believe that I and my generation have an excellent perspective by having one foot in the old world and one in the new world. I believe that is an advantage. It is an advantage similar to knowing English better by knowing another language, especially one that has a different take of expression of ideas.I believe that this make our understanding richer and deeper. At least, we have something meaningful to contribute if anyone cares to listen.Ironically, we picked the same Chinese proverb, more or less, for our web site: May You Live In Interesting Times.”” Actually, it is a subtle curse but you have to understand what is behind the words to understand the curse aspect of them.We see senior citizens and baby boomers about to face a second lifetime in challenging times, with economic, financial, and political uncertainty in abundance. We see a great deal of hope ahead and we are not to proud to learn from our younger brothers and sisters.If we are all one family of humanity, then surely that includes the old coots as well as the young whippersnappers.”

  2. In a perfect world, this scenario would be the case. Older generations would be open to learning from Gen-Yers, and everyone would live harmoniously. However, given the state of the economy and increasing number of unemployment claims, coupled with Gen-Xers’ 401Ks going down the tube, this kind of harmonious interaction may be unwelcomed by Gen Xers. Most are being forced to work beyond retirement, and in dire need of keeping their job. They feel a competitive threat from Gen Yers and, because of the way traditional bonus and performance structures are designed, they feel no need to collaborate with their younger peers.I believe that, in order for this scenario to happen, it will be necessary for organizations to revisit the way they reward performance, and move away from the model of rewarding individually, to a more collaborative based performance model. We have seen this in more cutting edge enterprises, but need to see more of it. This mandate must come from the top, with executives practicing what they preach as well.Just my two cents.

  3. This article is refreshing. It shows that some companies really do understand the importance of collaboration between Generation Y and their peers. As a Generation Y Consultant there are two things i know for sure about Gen Y, those are connectivity and community. Cisco seems to understand that these two building blocks make up a great deal of the force behind Gen Y’s creativity and organic mobility. Keep up the great work.

  4. Another source of inspiration about your younger employees is WON – the group of women I met (and spoke to there)after several approached me at the UC Berkeley Women MBA conference.The other asset many of them bring is a global mindset – both those born in the U.S. and those born elsewhere. Lucky Cisco, with your focus on Collaboration, to attract people with that approach. Working on Obama’s campaign I think the essential key to such massive collaboration was in the rules of engagement we set for each group and agreeing on a top goal – and who would bring what to the team…. sounds alot like Cisco