It seems that analyst firm Forrester has woken up to the fact that Gen Y are not the big movers and shakers that we've been told the last couple of years. According to Read Write Web Enterprise:
A favorite argument among those who talk about the gap between Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y is that the youngest demographic is more adept with technology. According to the [Forrester] survey results, that's just not true.
Gen X employees contribute to discussion forums and social networks just as much as their Gen Y counterparts. The use of blogs and wikis was either equal or different by just a couple percentage points.
But the most significant difference was not in usage stats. It was how effective employees are at getting new software to be accepted. 22% of Gen X said they felt they have the "clout in their organization" necessary to introduce new technology, while only 13% of those 29 said the same.
Even if Gen Y was significantly better at using social software, it wouldn't matter at this point. Obviously younger employees will increase their stature within organizations as the years pass. But the idea of Millennials at the vanguard of innovation in the enterprise is a myth.
Not that's a surprise to the Gen X/Boomers with whom I spend most of my time. You only have to read what's said at GreenDotLife: the forum for Deloitte consulting newbies to know what really matters to Gen Y types: sucking up to the boss, getting the best Blackberry deal and discounts on their next Merc. Or freebies. Nothing about changing the world. But then how could they?
Even an over educated, under experienced MBA student knows that success comes from being able to climb the greasy management pole. You don't do that by trumpeting that you know it all or that Facebook is the interface proxy for enterprise applications. Try that in this economy and you'll be at the head of the queue when the next round of pink slips are distributed (sic). You can only know that from having worked in enterprises, experienced the nuances of management practice and negotiated the politics of power.
Staunch defenders of the social media and E2.0 faith will likely argue that what we're really seeing is the trough of disillusionment or that they were right all along on adoption but that getting the demographic wrong is a minor blip. Try selling that to someone in management who has a problem to solve and couldn't give a flying souflee about shiny new tech toys. Which brings me neatly to a refreshing conversation I had with Stewart Mader last weekend.
If you don't know Stewart he's ex-Atlassian, an educator, an expert in wiki patterns and a practitioner in making things work. He's also a realist who told me stories I dare not repeat for fear of burning the innocent. Those stories can however be best summed up in this wonderful quote: "The most exciting thing about Wisdom of Crowds was the title. I guess if the author had been honest and said: The Wisdom of Some Crowds, it wouldn't have been a seller." Neither would the PR/marketing hordes have managed to turn that idea into a feeding frenzy. Anyone with a modicum of social psychological understanding around human behavior would know that there is no generalized wisdom in crowds. Check out Bystander Apathy instead. Much more instructive.
Stewart confirmed something Oliver Marks said to me the other day: the people and companies that are extracting the most value from the E2.0 technology smorgasbord don't talk about it because they get competitive advantage. Stuart went further. He added that the reason they don't talk - in his experience - is because they don't use the same language. They talk about solutions in terms of the problems they're trying to solve. Shock horror - the tech industry doesn't own the TLA. That feels like a delicious form of irony.
The social media/E2.0 types have vigorously argued that the new technologies empower people to get things done. I guess the unintended consequence is that they also empower users to own the language that goes with it. And that doesn't include "social media" or "Enterprise 2.0."
In the meantime I'm off to hunt for the innovations that matter. Those that deliver direct value back to the enterprise in ways business understand, can parse and which hopefully are buzzword free.