To me, the term “Generation X” has always suggested mystery—most appropriate, I can confirm from having fathered two members of this crowd. “Gen Y” sounds like a question—also apropos, since these Millennials seem to question traditional workplace processes and revel in “What’s on your mind?” posts, tweets and text.
So where does that leave “Generation Z”—the term we might use for post-Y youngsters born over the past seven to 10 years? Will they be the sleepy generation? Probably not. But we might end up calling them the Zoomers, an homage to their Boomer grandparents.
Zoomers are being socialized in a very different world from that of their parents—who adopted new technology and created new online services every other month—and their parents’ parents—who reveled in their own invention in the form of the Internet, chat, online games and e-commerce. Here are six phenomena we might witness as the Z Generation fashions its own place in a maturing 21st Century:
- While many Millennials never dialed a phone or heard a busy signal, Zoomers won’t use phones at all. Gestures will command their wearable devices to communicate standard messages and any actual voice communications will take the form of wireless gesture-initiated transmissions by tiny video-based devices.
- When a Zoomer meets someone new, he will automatically call up and project that person’s profile on his shirt via smartphone-driven data and a necklace-mounted projector.
- The Gen Y collector of comic books and anime will give way to Gen Z collectors of newsprint and lavish magazines. Print media will become a nostalgic artifact, with publications valued less for their historical significance than for their distinctive textures, weights and imagery.
- No longer will new employees need to convince managers and IT staff to allow them to bring their own communications devices to work. Business systems will be fully virtualized and cloud-based, and the tools that individual employees use at home will be indistinguishable from those employed on the job.
- A corollary to #4, “going to the office” in the future will become as ludicrous a phrase as “sitting down to breakfast with the family” is today. Companies will be distinguished by their teams, rather than their corporate architecture, and those teams will work in multiple environments, close to clients, customers or resources, employing collaborative technology. What offices remain will be reserved primarily for IT staffs as locations to interface with their cloud-based technology.
- Driving will become an increasingly optional activity in which the Gen Z population will engage for entertainment, much as earlier generations may have enjoyed a spin at the go-kart track. Without the need to commute, with online shopping for everything but the basic bread and milk trips, and with self-driving vehicles available for vacations, family visits and supermarket shopping, Gen Z’ers will do just fine standing on their own two feet—with their own tuned technology.
The seeds for most of these activities already have been planted, while others are educated guesses. One thing that won’t change, however, is the competitive nature of the human population. So those who Z-z-z will be those who lose. Maybe they’d prefer to be called the Mid-Millennials.