Don’t Panic! – it’s the era of the Big C

The last week or so has confirmed my belief in, to quote Douglas Adams‘ great character Dirk Gentlythe fundamental interconnectedness of all things.  Don’t panic!  Let me explain a series of events that all tie together with connections and communication and a lot of other Cs that say something about the amazing period of history and business environment we are living in.

We’ve just started working on a new website and community project for Anne Marie McEwan‘s “The Smart Work Company“.  I’ve been a huge fan of Anne Marie’s approach since we first met at Tuttle and then participated in one of the sessions at the inaugural November 2008 Amplified event at NESTA.  It was “#22 From conscripts to followers – new forms of leadership and organization” triggered by these posts from Euan Semple and I about the effect of social media tools on the traditional business hierarchy, decision making and culture.  That passionate discussion falls in to the heart of what Anne Marie’s company is all about – challenging the status quo, breaking down silos and finding new ways to work.  It’s a joy to be working on the design and messaging of a site where you completely believe in what they are trying to achieve.

As part of Anne Marie’s approach she is challenging the thinking behind the conventional MBA, and she is linking with universities to support a post graduate qualification based on her approach.  Part of her long term vision is to provide an online business school.  As I was listening it struck me that she has a lot of synergy and common ground with what my wife Kim is doing.  She runs a sixth form college, Oxford International College, but she is adding youth leadership, personal development, digital literacy, thinking skills (wonder where she got that idea) and a social media dimension to the curriculum.  She is currently working on a business, finance and management diploma that would be a foundation course for International students to gain entrance to UK Universities.  Kim’s trying to make sure the next generation entering the workforce is better prepared to listen to the smart ideas from people like Anne Marie.

There is a big crossover between the enterprise  2.0 collaboration topic that I evangelize and the sort of tools and culture change that Anne Marie is promoting with her ideas.   Some people, like Dachis Group and IBM, have started to use the term Social Business, although I hate that language (which will be  the subject of a follow on post).  By coincidence this last week Oracle published  their  Enterprise 2.0 Perspectives – a 28 page, free report which they describe as “The UK’s leading business thinkers share their unbiased views on new E2.0 technologies”.  There is input in there from the likes of Dennis Howlett and myself.  You can find and download the PDF here (although Oracle want to collect some details from you – anyone who prefers not to do that can mail me and I’ll send a copy).  When I sent it to Anne Marie she immediately DMd me to say she was just about to see Vlatka Hlupic (who she’d met at ballroom dancing) to discuss using her 6 Boxes model which helps bring a more collaborative and democratic culture and mindset to
organizations, and help diagnose bottlenecks in performance.  Vlatka is Professor of Business and Management at The University of Westminster, and one of the other contributors to the Oracle report.  That meeting led Vlatka to connect with me on LinkedIn resulting in a great Skype meeting.  We discover potential  for collaboration between us, but also Vlatka made a great introduction to the right person inside Westminster University for Kim to promote her foundation course.

During this same period David Jennings, who wrote the excellent Net, Blogs and Rock’n’Roll grabbed me at Tuttle and suggested he’d like to write up a case study story on a WordFrame Integra project for an article around the Agile topic.  Perfect timing for promoting what we are doing with Anne Marie, and by the way David and she have talked about collaborating in the past as well.  What a good coincidence!

Illustration by Doucin Pierre from strategy-businessWhile I was thinking about Anne Marie’s smart stuff, I remembered an article from over 10 years ago on the Booz strategy+business site concerning “Corporate Culture in Internet Time“.  I wanted to see how much perceptions had changed over the intervening decade or so of technology explosion.  It’s months or maybe even years since I’ve gone to this site, and I might have missed this excellent article on the front page from a few weeks ago on “The Rise of Generation C” by Roman Friedrich, Michael Peterson, and Alex Koster.  This strikes me as a better term than Millennials, Net Generation or Generations Y and Z.  The article is written from the viewpoint of 20 year old Colin in 2020 and they explain that:

“He is a member of a new generation that will be coming into its own over the next decade. Its members are typically realists and materialists. They are culturally liberal, though not necessarily politically progressive. They are upwardly mobile, yet they live with their parents longer than earlier generations ever did. Many of their social interactions take place on the Internet, where they feel free to express their opinions and attitudes. They’ve grown up under the influence of Harry Potter, Barack Obama, and iEverything — iPods, iTunes, iPhones. Technology is so intimately woven into their lives that the baby boom–era concept of “early adopters” is essentially meaningless.

We call them Generation C — connected, communicating, content-centric, computerized, community-oriented, always clicking. ”

This is a great article, with some excellent insight and analysis on privacy, the workplace, telecommunications, healthcare, travel and how you need to consider handling Generation C in your company.

But I believe that the factors discussed for Generation C aren’t so much about that particular group of youngsters, but are more to do with the time we are living in.  Globalisation, the pervasiveness of the Internet, the explosion in mobile communications, the way social media is beginning to   revolutionise business added to the technology we can now hold in our hands mean that we can be connected, communicating, consuming and creating content in ways that weren’t possible even 5 and certainly 10 years ago.  The rate of change is accelerating, and the way serendipity is being amplified is demonstrated by the collection of new connections I used above as examples.  The technology has caught up with the fundamental interconnectedness of all things.    It’s not so much the time of Generation C as the start of the  C Era – an evolution of the Internet Era where we are “connected, communicating, content-centric, computerized, community-oriented, always clicking”.

Update: Vlatka suggested some extra words to help describe 6 boxes (and that I get her professional name right!)

2nd illustration by Doucin Pierre

LinkedIn Twitter
Founder & CXO of Agile Elephant, a digital transformation consultancy and solutions provider. Head of D2C, a consulting firm which provides business and social media consulting and Cloud based solutions for content, collaboration, web publishing, online accounting and ERP. Was director EuroCloud UK, chaired techUK's Software as a Service Group, now Chair of Cloud Industry Forum.