Playing The Generational Homework Concentration Game

Here’s a conversation that recently took place in our household:

You’re almost fifty, getting shorter and just don’t understand how FaceBook and multi-party video chats help with our studies.

Now, just a minute, don’t you know it’s taking all evening to finish?

That’s because we mix online socializing with study. You guys don’t have a clue.

OK, I’m paraphrasing what was actually said (mine’s the middle sentence of the three above) but if you’ve got a teenage son or daughter with Internet access, I’ll bet you can probably relate.

Like many others, as a parent and teacher I’ve mixed feelings about the potential for FaceBook and other social media tools to interfere with study and academic achievement.

However, my fears are probably unfounded and what’s really happening is that a new generation is freely exploring the communication possibilities such technology is enabling.

And if I’m really honest with myself, what my teen daughter and her friends are doing is remarkably similar to what happens every day in organizations worldwide. That is, people are voice, video and chat conferencing in small, geographically-dispersed project teams in order to find solutions to problems and opportunities.

Of course, there’s a subtle but important difference between a group of teens on a video conference and a group of employees. Now, I know what many of you are thinking at this point: the difference is that the teens are the only ones enjoying themselves! That’s often true but is not the one I’ve got in mind.

Try this: time is money.

To my mind, if there&‘s one weakness in the social media skills that teens have mastered, it’s that many often have little concept of the time and effort expended in their use for a particular return.

But perhaps that’s as it should be. They’re young and still have time to learn from mistakes, and far be it for me to impose the checks and controls of behavioral conditioning so beloved by those examples of benevolent dictatorships we know as corporations. They’ll meet that colossus soon enough.

Overall, I’m optimistic about how young people will rise to the challenge of applying online social media’s potential for creativity and effective communication in the next ten years or so.

How about you?

Do you see, as I do, the world of work (I nearly typed World of Warcraft here by mistake!) being radically altered by large numbers of online-savvy young people moving into the mid and higher ranks of business?

PS the reference to me becoming shorter at the top of this post is because my height measured 1 cm less than a few years ago at a recent health check. A source of much mirth at my expense haha!