Enterprise 2.0 implications and digital natives

Cool, Björn did an extensive wrap-up of the interview Joachim Niemeier did with Prof. Dr. Michael Koch of the Universität der Bundeswehr, Munich (here’s the german language full text of the interview, here’s the corresponding post by Michael Koch).

Let me add my two cents to the discussion, interpreting and expanding on one point I found especially interesting: His observation that just because students and young people are avid users of social networking applications, this has (at least for the time being) no direct business implications.

From my perspective today the students know a lot of tools and services as StudiVZ or Facebook; but IMO it is not clear to many students how these tools can be used effectively within organisations; therefore I believe that the students nowadays are not any further then the enterprises; but this generation will add some more pressure towards the enterprises in order to use social software tools – though they will not enrich the enterprise with some kind of application expertise.

Well, corresponds with my own experiences with students, derived e.g. from supporting a slew of university courses and related events with innovative e-learning and social media tools. Despite the successes we’ve had I hold that only some of todays students are “real digital natives (TM)”. Granted, most are accustomed to all kinds of services, and they use the internet as normal part of their daily lifes. But that doesn’t mean that

  • they know how to leverage these experiences for business purposes,
  • nor are they “naturally” active and creative web-people, and so I doubt that they all will (again oh so naturally) turn out to be active, creative and efficient participants in (business-oriented) Enterprise 2.0 intranets, social networks etc.

And so, while the pressure on companies to alter organizational cultures, processes and routines is surely mounting by Enterprise 2.0, it’s not alone young people entering the workforce that are causing this. Let’s keep this: age and gender are really bad indicators for “digital nativeness”, easy as they seem to be.

One might even argue that it’s rather people like Frank – well-educated, -networked and experienced knowledge workers – that are raising the pressure. Perhaps it’s the retirement of the baby boomers that should get most companies to think about Enterprise 2.0 – i.e. how to retain the considerable tacit knowledge and social capital these people have, how to enhance and retain their productivity (they’re going to work for another 30 years, don’t they?) and how to ensure that these knowledgeable people stay with us when other companies offer so much more flexibility, openness, transparency – i.e. have become Enterprises 2.0?

What do you think? I am not sure if this is a worthwhile discussion to have – and I sure am not interested in a long discussion about definitions and the like – but for understanding target groups for Enterprise 2.0 initiatives this might be interesting?

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16 Responses to “Enterprise 2.0 implications and digital natives”

  1. Sequencing of generations with relations to technology aceptance and usage has some limitations. As Dion Hinchcliffe states: age and gender aren’t really good judges!

    Yes, I must admit: I’m from the baby boomer generation. That’s why Gartner’s Generation V saved my life :-)

  2. Martin Koser says:

    @Joachim, saw this too – and I like this model quite a lot, if only because it doesn’t impose a “strict sequence” like ladder, spiral, whatever models suppose.

  3. Barthox says:


    I totally agree with you on the fact that the millenials are not better prepared for E2.0 than the rest of the workforce!

    E2.0 is for me still at the ‘early adopters’ stage, and is starting to make its way to the ‘Early Majority’ stage.

    Coming back to Gen Y, I recently experienced something that made me realize that not all of them are that efficient with social medias;

    I am part of a group of people who take in charge the organization of our village fair. This year we decided to organize a small festival; three bands are coming to play on the Saturday night.

    We need a whole lot of people showing up at the event, but there are at least two other similar concerts in a 15 km radius (we learned about it too late), so we decided to make as much publicity as possible for our festival.

    I created an event on Facebook, then contacted the Youth Organization from our village, asking them to register to the event on FB and invite their friends/contacts to do the same.

    Most of them did … after having to register to Facebook, since none of them was present on it! And I’m speaking about young people from 16 to 22 years old, who use email, IM and forums everyday! But, they had no experience at all with social networks!

  4. Frank Hamm says:

    Martin, I totally agree with you and Dion that gender and age are not a good indicator for “digital nativeness”.

    Actually I feel like being quite “digital” but compared to the definition I’m not a Digital Native. I’m even not one of those Digital Nomads ( http://www.digitalnomads.com/ ) I would like to be (at least my wife granted me an iPhone for Xmas :-) ). I just published an article I had prepared and scheduled for this evening but this post here forced me to publish in now (in German): Die Digital Nomads kommen http://www.injelea.de/plog/blog.php/injelea/2008/08/22/die-digital-nomads-kommen

    May be I’m one of those Generation V(irtual).

    But may be I’m just one of those Digital Silvers (“Silver digitalis”) who has silver in his hair and bits in his bones :-)

    I guess it’s not a question of age or gender or other hard facts: for me it’s a question of lifestyle and work-life balance.

  5. Martin Koser says:

    @Barthox Thanks for sharing, great story. I wonder what the real numbers of FB adoption rates are – clustered by age/gender/etc. (btw, one of my favourite guesses is that participating and actively using the web is linked to “level of education”, not valid for StudiVZ probably). Are you aware of any reasonable research?

    Actually I got triggered onto this by a number of related things, one of them being Robert Basic’ extended take on “Web 2.0 usage numbers in Germany”, see here: http://tinyurl.com/5busok – which weren’t that impressive.

    But in the end my problems with the ever-present promotion of “digital natives” stem from my overly suspicious mind – I guess that sometimes this focus and fascination is used to “buy time” as in “oh, we really have to change our organization as soon as all these people will enter our company (but that will take so many years, why bother now)” …

  6. Martin Koser says:

    @Frank Now come on, you’re a 100% digital native, and once you’ve got your iPhone you can prove it easily 😉

    I agree with you that “Going Bedouin” (google that to see where Dell gets its inspiration …) will be no option for most workers and kinds of work for long – so no worries with that. Personally I get a liking to this Gartner term “Generation V” – I guess we’re both V-people.

    ps. Sorry, for forcing you to post 😉

  7. Frank Hamm says:

    welcome to the V-club :-)

    ps. don’t worry, some times I like to get forced :-)

  8. Barthox says:

    Martin, I don’t know any research, no … but I was thinking yesterday, that we could make our own litlle survey?

    I’m sure we can reach a sufficient number of people aged 15-25 and ask them to go through a short survey. Not a poll, one question is too short, and we need to profile them anyway (age, gender, country, and yes … level of education)!

    With you and Frank being based in Germany, myself in Belgium, we cover two territory already, and I’m sure we can find contacts in other countries that would go with it …


    This being said … in which Gen are you when you’re 35 and not nomad at all … ;o)

  9. […] Enterprise 2.0 implications and digital natives […]

  10. In case you missed that tweet:


    Have to test the situation with German students. Hope they will not lock me away!

  11. Martin Koser says:

    @Joachim @Barthox did my very own little tests recently – no statistical relevance so far but I have observed that younger students, i.e. those who are just venturing into the world of higher education, seem to be more inclined than the folks who have already spent some time in these institutions (and who probably have made their learnings, experiences and all).

    So we may ask if that’s what happens to the playful, creative and curious people that enter our education systems after a while … or we may wonder if that’s a mere reflection of a goal-oriented and rational life-style – putting the elements of education aside that don’t have direct benefits, i.e. good marks?

    Anyway, @Joachim, keep me in the loop and if there are no lifesigns for a while I will send in the search party – OK?

  12. Have a look at Rolf Schulmeister’s “Gibt es eine “Net Generation” (2008)“. A very condensed summary:

    The Internet is for the Net generation a part of the pattern of their day and integrated into their sense of place and time. The majority of young people have integrated the Net into mainstream activities that strengthen their connections to their real-world communities and enrich their social interactions with peers. A transfer of the required competences onto learning activities (still) seems to be very limited

    For me this is a clear support for “… it is not clear to many students how these tools can be used effectively within organisations.”

  13. Barthox says:

    @Martin wouldn’t it be because those entering the education system are younger? They might keep those activities.
    By the way, here’s a presentation of results of a short survey regarding uses of social networks http://www.slideshare.net/vaninadelobelle/social-networks-management-presentation

    @Joachim I’d say that if “… it is not clear to many students how these tools can be used effectively within organisations.” it is most probably because most students don’t have any idea on how an organization operates …

  14. Martin Koser says:

    @Joachim thanks for the quote, I agree that this is the situation and that’s also where @Barthox comes into play when he says that “it is not clear to many students how these tools can be used effectively within organisations” is most probably “because most students don’t have any idea on how an organization operates …”

    I think that’s the point, it’s not important to know, understand and master collaborative (knowledge) work processes to earn your credentials. And this is both a major shortcoming in the competency portfolio of a 21st century knowledgeworker, and a challenge for organizations that want to change into Enterprises 2.0 (btw, check out my last post on Changing organisations via Enterprise 2.0 – pre-conference interview – Festo).

  15. Martin Koser says:

    @Barthox I know what you mean and hope for this too. In fact I really expect that those “who’ve got it” hold onto it, so they will rather not work in old-school organizations.

    But I am convinced that it’s not an age issue, and I argue that way because of two more reasons (in addition to my main argument of “keeping the knowledge of the retiring baby boomers”):

    1. we shouldn’t wait for these people to change our organizations – we should do it for all our employees
    2. some of these “digital natives” (OK, I’m using this term now, albeit reluctantly … ;/) might lose their edge, curiousity, adaptivity etc. after some years in stiff organizations, ie. our current systems of education.

    And all those that get it (regardless of their age) might never bother to work for organizations that didn’t change in time.

  16. Barthox says:


    I fully agree with you on all your remarks …

    (sorry for the late reply but it was the town’s fair this w-e and I haven’t been online since last friday morning!)

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