Book Review: The Gen Z Effect

41ce5UPVn8L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_By Thomas Koulopoulos and Dan Keldsen

Published by Bibliomotion, Nov. 11, 2014

256 pages, Hardcover $22.95, e-read addition $9.99

In a Nutshell – Throw away your biases about the generational differences in the workplace. With evolving technology and demographics, all of us will soon be working in a world where age is less relevant.

Who’s it for? – “The Gen Z Effect” is clear that it was written with all interests and ages in mind.

Author Quote – “The year 2080 will be remarkable, not for its technologies, which will no doubt be light-years ahead of where we are today, but because it will mark the first time in recorded history that every five-year age band, from newborns to 65-year-olds, will account for almost exactly the same percentage of the world’s population: six percent.

It is a common belief that there is a generation gap in the American workplace. It’s popular to hear of the non-traditional work ethic of millennials and the struggles of older generations adjusting to technology. “The Gen Z Effect” was written to tell us that going forward that these generational chasms will quickly disappear. Within a few years, the book’s authors claim, technology and demographics will even out workforce disparities and create a more productive business environment.

Gen Z refers to the generation born 10 years before or after 2005. Authors Thomas Koulopoulos and Dan Keldson believe that the world that Gen Z came to age in has important elements that are revolutionizing the way all ages work, think, and behave forming what they term “The Gen Z Effect.” These include:

HyperconnectingMoving toward exponentially higher connectivity among people, computers, machines, and devices.

Slingshotting: Breakthroughs in experience and affordability that turn cutting edge of technology into the norm, allowing large segments of the population to catch up.

Adopting the World as My Classroom: Pushing toward global availability of education with all levels of schooling and for any age.

Lifehacking: Taking shortcuts, and outsmarting the system so that we can focus on outcomes rather than processes, making meaning and purpose the center of our personal and professional experience.

Koulopoulos and Keldsen argue that technology is rapidly shifting how we interact inter-generationally.  Examples include grandmothers on iPads Skyping children who have not yet learned to walk and talk, a child in Kenya whose family makes less than $5 per day attending online classes at MIT, an unemployed Baby Boomer funding her start up business on Kickstarter, and a middle school student building a revolutionary medical device on a 3D printer.

Going forward this means businesses will soon be made up of a wide age range of employees that will likely be much more able to work from more similar perspectives. This includes people staying much longer in the workplace in what the authors call a “Third Act.”

In the short term, concepts such as reverse mentoring will challenge some aging baby boomers that will have to realize that their life experiences are not a proxy and that some technical problem solving skills will be taught to them by younger cohorts.

Some of the advances that Koulopoulos and Keldsen describe already have ramifications on what we locally experience in the Grand Traverse region. This includes virtual workers who work at home or far from the headquarters of their employers working on schedules that also fit their own personal situations.

Overall, “The Gen Z Effect” is written with a narrative that is well crafted to give readers a clearer insight into what it will be like working 20-30 years down the road. Fortunately technology and demographics will even out workforce disparities and create a more rewarding workplace for those of us willing to adapt.

Chris Wendel is a business consultant and commercial lender with Northern Initiatives, a community development financial institution based in Marquette. Wendel resides and works in Traverse City and can be reached at cwendel@northerninitiatives.org

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