Catherine Sloan's recent blog post on Nextgen Journal, Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25, has generated hundreds of comments in just a few days, the overwhelming majority of them negative.
There is, however, a more important point to be made than simply whether someone who grows up with a particular kind of technology is more suited to manage it. The fact is that technological innovation is coming faster and faster, and has now reached a point where it is actually noticeable across generations. The generation gap is widening simply because the speed of technology is increasing.
Think about it: If you have teenagers today, they are far more different from you than you were from your parents when you were a teenager. And their children are likely to be even more different from them. Not long ago a friend of mine went for a drive with his children, and on the radio one of the kids' favorite songs was playing. So they all sang along. At the end of the song the 3-year-old, who was already accustomed to a completely different kind of technology, spoke up: "Play the song again, Daddy! Play it again!"
There are many reasons for the accelerating rate at which technology is driving change, from the exponentially compounding effects of Moore's Law to the even faster combinatorial rate at which social networks increase. The fact is, however, that technology has improved the global rate of economic growth per capita to more than 2% per year, compared to just half that rate a hundred years ago, and virtually zero just 300 years before that. What will happen when growth, globally, tops 3% or even 4% per capita per year?
Whether you buy Sloan's point of view or the point of view of her critics, what ought to be clear is that no one can stand still any more. You—yes, you, in the T-shirt and flip-flops!—if you want to remain productive (and employed) you'll have to work hard to be open-minded, agile, and capable of adjusting. You cannot simply assume that what you learned in school will be useful more than a few years after graduation. Go ahead and learn accounting, or marketing, or art history, for sure. But also, and more importantly, learn how to learn. Learn how to answer questions, on your own or with your own social connections. Learn how to think differently. Be entropic.
[Image: Flickr user World Bank Photo]