16 Jan Harnessing the passion and skills of the emerging media-savvy generation
You’d have to be living someplace as remote as Easter Island to escape the networked, digital and media-saturated world in which we now live. Yet many corporate executives and front-line managers have been slow to awaken to the implications of the omnipresent new media. Even fewer are actively leveraging the opportunities it’s creating to change the workplace for the better. So far, there has been little downside for executives who have ignored this trend. But that’s about to change – new and rapidly proliferating media and long-predicted demographic changes are combining in ways that will create a seismic shift in the landscape of the workplace.
A media-savvy generation of workers is emerging
It is now possible for every person within (and outside of) organizations to instantly connect with everyone else via a smorgasbord of electronic communications devices and options – cell phones, SMS, IM, iPod, iTV, Internet, PC gaming, console gaming, multiplayer gaming, broadband access. Masses of information – databases, articles, books, videos, TV programs, music, educational material – indeed any information or entertainment in any form is or will soon be digital. This means people can access these resources anytime, from anywhere and in whatever form they wish.
How are all these media options affecting the workplace? Well for one thing there is growing evidence that a “media-savvy” generation of workers is coming to the fore. At first glance this appears to be a trend rooted in young people. According to the latest usage figures from the Pew Internet & American Life project, 77 percent of the people between the ages of 13 and 29 use the Internet on a regular basis. What’s more, people between the ages of 13 and 24 live in a seemingly continuous state of media interaction. Every week they spend an average of 16.7 hours online, 13.6 hours watching television 12.0 hours listening to the radio and 7.7 hours talking on the phone.
While this behavior may be prevalent in young people growing up with interactive technology and video gaming experience, it is also centered in media experience and therefore spans generations. According to the Entertainment Software Association, fifty percent of all Americans play video games, spending approximately seven hours a week glued to some type of screen. But its not just kids – 43% of 18-49 year olds play video games. Nor is it only men – 44% of on-line game players are women.
The presence of many of these media-savvy workers in the workplace is being felt. Regardless of their age, these individuals are cut from a different cloth than their traditionalist peers. They are hungry for self-directed learning, favor performance-based rewards, have very specific short-term expectations and goals and want more technology enabling at work not less.
Play to learn
According to Henry Jenkins, director of comparative media studies at MIT and cofounder of the Gaming and Learning Research Initiative, playing video games has positive learning consequences. He asserts that gaming promotes rapid decision making on limited information, exactly what’s demanded in the increasingly real time workplace. Multi-player games can actually enhance social skills such as the ability to collaborate by requiring players to work with other people over distance, to share knowledge, to resolve disputes quickly, and to stay on task – all critical skills in the emerging global and virtual workplace.
Jenkins believes games can spark learning in the corporate setting, something that is desperately needed. According to research firm IDC, companies spend close to $24 billion on e-learning capabilities and programs but many executives question the pay off in improved business performance resulting from this investment.
According to John Beck and Mitchell Wade, authors of “Got Game: How the Gamer Generation is Changing Business Forever”, people who play video games are developing all the critical skills needed in today’s world of pervasive interactive media. Games help players to learn to become really good at what they do by mastering the skills and the mindset to perform at peak. Players learn that practice pays off. Games teach that failure isn’t the end of the world, in fact, trial and error is the best way to learn and advance and that persistence pays off. And they promote global perspectives by teaching people to bond around shared experiences not simply national or cultural backgrounds.
Progressive organizations are already introducing gaming technology to support their learning initiatives. Companies like IBM and Nokia are using gaming to test workers’ knowledge of rules and regulations. Pfizer has built a simulation of its drug-development process that is used to train new recruits. PricewaterhouseCoopers has created an elaborate simulation to teach novice auditors about financial derivatives. And of course, pilots have been trained using flight simulators for years, and simulators are now used by soldiers and surgeons too.
Got game yet?
Despite these inroads in using new interactive technologies, many companies remain trapped by outdated thinking and obsolete methods. The learning and performance strategies that worked in traditional corporate settings are woefully ineffective with the emerging media-savvy generation. In order to catch up, many organizations will need to make serious attempts to understand the emerging media-savvy generation – what motivates them, what they expect in the workplace, what they need to excel at their jobs, how they learn and how interactive media can be used to supercharge their performance and learning. Harnessing the passion and skills of the media-savvy generation will require significant changes in the mindsets of managers and the culture of corporations. So if you’re a manager wanting to engage the emerging media-savvy generation, here’s one quick recommendation: buy an Xbox – it’s time to get game.
Are you a media-savvy worker? Is your employer taking full advantage of your interactive media skills and acumen? How well is your employer meeting your learning and performance needs? Please e-mail Tony at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts and experiences.
Are you a business, HR or corporate learning executive interested in finding out more about the Media-Savvy Learning Project? A prospectus describing this research project can be downloaded.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.