The Entitled Generation? – Back off pal

“A generation with a huge sense of entitlement: Bosses complain that Millennials are spoilt, full of themselves, averse to hard work and expect ‘success on a plate’ so what does that mean for society?” – Daily Mail 2017

It seems to me that my generation, just like every generational change that has gone before, is open to criticism from older generations, reacting negatively or maybe nervously about the future prospects of a younger generation, simply because the younger generation do not reflect the values, attitudes, traditions or actions that they had in their youth.

It should come as no surprise, that having started my first business at 11 years old, I have personally received a vast array of comments, many very helpful and some not so, from younger and older generations alike that have shaped my professional life and triggered a fascination with understanding generational change, and what exactly happens to change our attitudes and behaviours so significantly.

Sharing the story of my company at a conference

While you could define me as a Millennial, I would assert that I am probably better defined as a part of the Digital Generation. A Generation that embraces Millennial, Gen Y and Z (so far) and defined by those who have grown up with and are surrounded by digital technologies. Smartphones, tablets, computers, pervasive connectivity, social media,  cloud services, IoT devices and AI that are collectively defining and shaping the way we all work and live.

In other words, the infrastructure and platforms envisioned and created by older generations, embraced and applied intuitively by Digital Generations. And this Digital Generation thinking also manifests itself in new disruptive businesses, that have shaken and challenged traditional business models of the past. Often controversial businesses that split the loyalties of all generations (Taxi vs. Uber?), demanding a change in behaviour and expectations (High St vs. Online) and providing a very different experience for the consumer (Hotel vs. Airbnb).

It is clear that Digital Generations will not grow up to become more like their parents or grandparents as has happened so much in the past. Digital Generations will continue to be influenced and drawn into (often gladly embracing) the innovations that digital technologies will bring. As we grow older our challenge will be to ‘keep up’ with the changes that are yet to come. But it is clear to me that my duty – both as a business person and as a member of society, is to ensure that all generations have the opportunity to engage with the advances we are making on a daily basis.

But being a part of the Digital Generation is not a bed of roses. While the devices and applications we use to help run our lives often give us ‘instant gratification’ (a benefit that is used against us so often), we are also the ‘always on’ generation. Where our lives are led and judged on often merciless social platforms, where we are always contactable and engaged, where our ‘close’ relationships run into hundreds, not the three or four friends of older generations. We are pressured and under stress resulting in significant growth in Mental Illness and labelled as “snowflakes” when that illness has a negative impact on our daily lives. We have seen over 90% growth of incidence of Obesity in younger people since the 1970s, much of that put down to the more sedentary lives of Digital Generations when gaming or using social media.

It’s clear that we have our challenges to face. “Privileged”? Yes – to benefit from the hard work of older generations to create this digital society. “Entitled”? I think not. We face the same challenges as previous generations but on a global scale and a vastly increased pace of change. Perhaps the defining word I would use to describe my Digital Generation is “Empowered”.  And as with all generations – the opportunity is there for those who want to take it. But my generation is Empowered to challenge convention, to live lives that meet their expectations and to play a part in changing the future for all society. To face up to the challenges that confront every new generation and deal with the positives and negatives that come with change.

And frankly, I can’t wait to get on with it.

Ben Towers is a next generation entrepreneur and speaker. To book him (or anyone else) for your event please contact JLA here

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