We’re All Going To Be ‘Digital Natives’
The concept of ‘digital natives’ versus ‘digital immigrants’ is increasingly problematic.
Contributor: Susan Moore
Since education consultant Marc Prensky coined the term “digital native” in a 2001 article, the concept of digital natives and digital immigrants has moved well beyond the scope of education to become a common meme in the enterprise.
Leaders in both private and public sector enterprises often speak about the need to source technology and adapt it to the needs of digital natives. They express great concern that the tools of late 20th to early 21st century collaboration are ill-suited to a workforce increasingly made up of millennials.
“One of the obvious flaws in this concept is the idea that someone’s age exclusively dictates digital technology prowess, when in fact it is significantly shaped by race, class, geography and cultural background,” said Brian Prentice, research vice president at Gartner. “There is also often an assumption – one prone to be anecdotal and prejudicial – that the technology young people use for interaction outside work directly translates into expectations inside a work environment.”
We need to actively discourage senior leadership from believing that the concept of digital natives or millennials is valid.
Mr. Prentice said instead of catering for specific age-based audiences, CIOs should pursue nuanced solutions that reflect workforce diversity.
“This is a far more compelling and inclusive way to think about technology than a dichotomous world of digital ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’”, said Mr. Prentice. “It is also much more likely that this type of approach will lead to improvements in employee engagement.”
IT – not people – should adapt
Part of the fascination with the concept of digital natives versus digital immigrants is based on a perception that it is people who need to adapt to digital technology.
But the IT industry is moving into a new phase of maturity, one in which technology solutions will fail in the market if they are not immediately intuitive and operable without training or support.
Searching for the types of employee most adaptive to digital technology is a futile undertaking because digital technology will be adaptive to people. People-centric design processes, the evolution of human computer interfaces and the blurring of the digital and physical worlds will negate the need to do so.
Innovation in the age of digital business will not be driven through a subset of the workforce that management believes is endowed with technology prowess. If anything, that is likely to result in a form of banal technology advancement increasingly seen in Silicon Valley, where new solutions seldom extend beyond the limited personal experience of the highly educated, decidedly nondiverse under 30s predominantly leading the consumer startup scene.
Instead, innovative, successful digital businesses will be led by those who understand how to connect workforces with rich generational, gender, racial and cultural diversity.
The role of the CIO
There is enormous scope for CIOs in the future to orchestrate a wider array of technology in ways not currently imagined. Managed effectively, everyone becomes a digital native because all digital technology is created to be contextual, intuitively obvious and immediately beneficial.
The popular concept of ‘digital natives’ versus ‘digital immigrants’ is not supported by evidence and increasingly problematic.
“Above all, we need to actively discourage senior leadership from believing that the concept of digital natives or millennials is valid for digital business or workplace planning,” Mr. Prentice said. “Instead, apply ethnographic research techniques to surface nuanced behavioral factors that are influenced by more than just age.”
Gartner clients can read more in the report ‘In the Future, We’ll All Be ‘Digital Natives‘.
Application trends will be further discussed at the Gartner Application Architecture, Development & Integration Summits taking place May 23-24 inLondon. Follow news and updates from these events using #GartnerAADI.
Application, customer and employee trends will be further discussed at theGartner Application Strategies & Solutions Summit, December 6-8 in Las Vegas. Follow news and updates from this event on Twitter using#GartnerAPPS.
For more visit Smarter With Gartner website.