Megatrends are enormous, long-term trends that produce great shifts in society for many years to come.
One example of a megatrend is people living longer. This megatrend shows no signs of reversing, a hallmark of a true megatrend. Medicine and health technology is only going to get better.
We can see that the aging of the population is already creating unforeseen consequences. The cost of healthcare is ramping up. Social security is draining faster than it’s being replenished.
As agilists, we have to develop a feel for how the near future will look. It’s impossible to plan precisely how things will turn out. Agile people don’t try to do that. An agile person looks to megatrends to anticipate broad, generally applicable changes in culture and society.
Megatrends matter because if we can see the changes coming, we can react faster to them and take advantage of disruptive moments in history.
Agile people try not to get caught on the wrong side of creative destruction. But if we do, we can quickly adapt and change direction.
Megatrend Alert: Companies Will Have to Adapt to Digital Natives
The baby boomers will begin retiring in the millions starting in the middle part of this decade. The workforce has to be replenished — and the only ones who can do it in sufficient numbers are the digital natives.
Except that digital natives don’t have the same values of work as the baby boomer generation.
The baby boomers traded meaning and self-fulfillment for (the illusion of) job security. The digital natives want to work for companies that are aligned with their goals and values.
The baby boomers consented to being treated like fungible cogs in the corporate machine. The digital natives are looking for autonomy and personal mastery of their skills and talents.
The baby boomers believed wholeheartedly in the middle-class American Dream. The digital natives are much more skeptical.
The companies that will succeed in hiring and retaining digital natives will have to shed many of the bad habits of today’s Fortune 500, which caters to the boomer generation.
Forced collocation. Rigid hierarchies. Inflexible work schedules. Command-and-control top-down leadership.
Digital natives are not interested in outdated twentieth century ideas about management.
The baby boomers bought into certain lifestyle scripts, like the false choice between working to live and living to work.
Given the option, digital natives choose both.
Digital natives look at their lives holistically and seek fulfillment from whatever activity they are engaged in. When digital natives devote time and attention to something, whether that activity generates income for them or not, they devote themselves to it.
Just take a look at all the user generated content on Youtube. Or the endless Harry Potter fanfiction. Or open source developers freely giving their time and efforts to create better computer programs for everyone.
Or hell, just look at all the blogs out there.
Companies that understand this crucial shift in emphasis will survive and thrive in the new century.
The companies that continue to force baby boomer ideals on digital native employees will inevitably be disrupted and disappear. Because those companies won’t be able to replace their retiring employees with a population that believes in paying your dues and mindlessly following the Herd mentality, those companies will be in serious trouble.
The ideals of the baby boomer generation are well past their sell-by date.
The question is whether or not your organization is agile enough to keep up with these changing values.
If not, then it’s time for a change.
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Image by Alper Çuğun.