The end of generations: closing the gaps in a hyperconnected age

Thomas Koulopoulos on Twitter
Thomas Koulopoulos on Twitter

What’s the problem with predicting the future? We’re used to look at it through the lens of the past. And that’s where we get stuck. Those are the words of Thomas Koulopoulos, founder of Delphi Group, author of several books and …a futurist.

In March, Thomas was one of the speakers at the AIIM 2015 conference in San Diego, along with Charlene Li, John Mancini and many thought leaders and experts in the information management space.

At the event, Koulopoulos talked about his latest book, ““The Gen Z Effect: The Six Forces Shaping the Future of Business”.

The Gen Z effect: reconnecting what we have divided – generations

The core message in a nutshell and somewhat simplifying? Welcome to a hyper connected digital age, yet not in the way we traditionally look at it: a generational way whereby technology has divided generations.

Gen Z is all of us, it removes the generational gaps technology – or we – created. It has nothing to do with demographics or age. It’s about behavior

Forget digital natives and all those generations we have defined (in all fairness they only REALLY existed in the minds of marketers, researchers and those aging up and looking at the younger generations, starting each conversation with “when we were young….”). Generations are generalizations, simple as that (but, yes, there are differences in how we use technologies, among others depending on age, ignoring that is risking to totally be out of touch with the life and world of your kids).

Back to Gen Z as Koulopoulos defines it. Gen Z is all of us, it removes the generational gaps technology – or we – created. It has nothing to do with demographics or age. It’s about behavior. With digital technologies being so pervasive and ubiquitous, we all are part of the same “technology era”.

The Gen Z Effect is quoting from the (great) website dedicated to the book:

  • Building a post-generational world, one person at a time.
  • What happens when the simplicity and affordability of technology unites generations more than it divides them.

Come again? Wait, there is more and all will become clearer soon. Tom Koulopoulos and co-author Dan Keldsen have another concept for us: slingshotting. I quote from an interview with Koulopoulous: “Slingshotting happens when the accelerating force of innovation propels a technology forward until people can skip multiple advances and land in the same place as those who suffered through its early growth”.

Slingshotting is one of the forces shaping the future of business Koulopoulos says in the interview. And, I quote again, “the best technologies are those that will seduce a critical mass of reluctant users and slingshot them into the future”.

But wait a minute: aren’t we talking technology here instead of behavior? Yes and no. It’s indeed the behavior that matters first but the technology plays a clear role. Koulopoulos: “The problem is that while technology may move forward incrementally, people don’t. People are often resistant to a new approach until there’s an overwhelmingly compelling reason to change and a much simpler alternative. Then, watch out.” It does sound a bit like digital disruption as in digital transformation indeed.

The impact of hyperconnectivity: what we know and don’t know

In an eBook, “Digital Transformation – Embrace the Chaos“, which AIIM published at the occasion of the conference, Koulopoulous wrote a great piece. “The only thing we can say for certain about the future, he says, is that it will be stranger than anything we can dream of” (again, among others because we look through the lens of the past).

The impact of hyper connectivity and the accelerating pace of technology, connecting everyone and everything will challenge us in ways we can’t comprehend today.

Koulopoulos has a few predictions. One of them: we will no longer understand how computers work. And it’s not about CPUs, motherboards, hard disks, network cables etc. It’s even not about artificial intelligence in the sense of computers mimicking human intelligence. “The real shift”, Koulopolous says, “will be when computers think in ways we can’t even begin to understand”.

The real shift will be when computers think in ways we can’t even begin to understand

And that brings us back to the beginning. The problem of predicting the future. There is this weird phenomenon called the “unknown and the unpredictable”. And this philosopher who once said “we can only understand what we can understand. Are we ready for what we can’t understand and is about to become part of our daily lives?

One thing is for sure: we’re all about to become part of Gen Z, the hyper connected. Unless tomorrow a massive cyber threat totally brings the Internet down as a cybersecurity expert once…predicted.

More about the Gen Z Effect on the mentioned dedicated website and an introduction to the Gen Z Effect and its six forces shaping the future of business in the video below. It’s the fastest and clearest video explaining the core concepts of a book I have ever seen. And that’s not a prediction.