Millennials Respect Technology (not their parents)
"Cool Points" are a Thing
Looking back over the dramatic changes that have occurred within our world over the last millennium, it might be stated that nothing compares to the rapid explosion of societal changes caused by technology. In a previous life (literally, like the last generation), youths were educated and exposed to very nearly the same life experiences as their own parents. Similar education, similar business practices, industries and ultimately, similar technologies. Sure, "Baby Boomers" saw some pretty radical changes of ideals in the 60's and 70's, but going from black and white television to color hardly gave them a unique knowledge that their parents did not possess. Within their generations and many before it, young men and women were likely able to learn the majority of their practical life and business lessons from their parents and mentors from the generation past. I can already hear the "boomer" argument of "my parents NEVER used a computer, and I know them quite well." True, but how far did your knowledge of technology advance ahead of your parents when you were in high school (a key developmental stage of your young adult life)? As society is shifting to the influence of millennials worldwide, "cool points" may have more to do with respect than you realize.
The Typical Millennial Story
My story of how technology was introduced and integrated into my life is probably a pretty good representation of the millennial generation as a whole. At 10, my dad let me start playing around with his Macintosh computer (Oregon Trial was life). I'd make terribly ugly greeting cards and party banners on some printshop-esque program that would print out on long and strange computer paper with holes on the side. At 12 years old, my then 28 year old uncle introduced me to the basics of a desktop computer and Windows 95 (that he built). By 13, I could put together all the hardware components for my own desktop and upload the software to run Windows (a little geekier than most, admittedly). By 14, I was already teaching my mom and dad how to use some of the functions of Windows and advising them on which search engines will give them the best results. PAUSE - I'm 14 and I already feel like my parents are less intelligent than I am when it comes to technology. That was 18 years ago. Since then, like most other millennials, my siblings and I taught my parents about desktops, laptops, software, home internet network troubleshooting, cell phones, texting, Instant Messenger, Facebook, Skype, smartphones, apps and nearly everything else that pertains to technology. To make matters worse, the all-too-common expression of "I just don't understand this stuff" seemed to be the "go to" excuse for not paying attention.
For youth, respect lies in "cool points"
At the beginning of the technological shift, the business world didn't revolve around technology like it does today, so ignoring it was feasible for parents. It just wasn't necessary. Whether or not their kids thought they were "cool" hardly had an impact on their decision to learn more about technology. After all, they were intelligent, successful and experienced and didn't truly understand the impact technology was about to have on literally everything. To us; however, their lack of technological understanding simply confirmed what teenagers already suspect, that their parents are morons. My oldest son is 11 years old and I'm sure he'll find a reason to decide I'm a moron too...within a few short years.
With all these "cool points" being lost by our parents as we grew into adults, a few of us have come to find a million other reasons to respect our elders, but technology still isn't one of them. Perhaps it never will be. The dissonance created by this lack of respect may hold permanently - which brings me to my next point.
The Work Force Fallout
The question of whether or not it's too late for "boomers" and "Gen X'ers" to catch up isn't just a matter of ability, but also of perception.
Like it or not, millennials (defined 18-34) are now the largest living generation in America. According to Pew Research Center, millennials "now number 75.4 million, surpassing the 74.9 million Baby Boomers (ages 51-69)." That's a lot of influence. With such an incredible number of people basing a large portion of their respect for superiors on their knowledge of technology, how will the careers of older generations be affected? "Catching up" to the robust understanding of technological applications millennials utilize daily is just one of the challenges - perception is another. The skeptical attitude of millennials toward an older generation will leave the burden of proof (to demonstrate understanding of current markets and technologies) squarely on our parents shoulders.
How will this affect "Boomers" and "Gen X'ers" over the next decade?
Simply stated, the youngest Baby Boomers (52 years old) are all within a decade of retiring. Assuming they'd like to retire and have adequate social security, IRA, savings, etc., they need only "deal" with this growing dilemma long enough to finish out their professional careers. Although a decade may seem short for some, it will be a long road for those who want to work in a professional environment, yet refuse to learn the basics. Don't forget that the iPhone didn't even exist 9 years ago. We are seeing more Fortune 500 companies recognize and employ corporate leaders who are far younger than ever before.
The average Gen X'er (44 years old) has enough rope to either hang themselves or build a ladder. With 16-20 years before retirement, adequate time is available to either get on track or get left behind completely. One thing is for sure, the exponential rate at which technology integrates with every industry will create a challenge for many of those who decide they "just aren't into this stuff." Don't feel ostracized; however, the technological changes that permeate every industry will be a challenge to every millennial for their entire lives.