Peter Cochrane's Blog: Smart but not corporate

A revolution brought about by exposure to technology from birth

Written in my home office after some recent experiences in the US and a heavy week of meetings in the UK. Dispatched via my home optical local loop connection.

I knew it would happen sometime but like most things these days it has arrived early.

Imagine the scene. A large and well-respected multinational company is recruiting and the graduates are all in a lecture theatre ready to hear the pitch. The CEO strides out and welcomes everyone, fumbles a bit with his presentation (PowerPoint of course!) and proceeds to outline what his company does and their current needs and opportunities.

This is all reinforced by detailed hierarchical reporting structures, loose definitions of roles and responsibilities and video clips featuring customers and employees.

The young audience listens attentively; there are no interruptions and, perhaps even worse, only a few weak questions at the end. Everyone files out for coffee and the CEO and his staffers start to circulate. The room is abuzz - deep probing questions are being asked on every technology, business, operations and social aspect imaginable.

Almost all the students are between 24- and 28-years-old, at an MSc or MBA level and seem to have had some industrial experience. They are well groomed and have their own business cards, websites, mobiles, PDAs and laptops. Also, they are clearly very smart and seem a grade above previous years.

From the hubbub in the room it is clear information is flowing freely but some of the company staffers seem to be having a bit of a tough time. Even the CEO seems to be getting a bit pinned down by the zeal and focus of some candidates.

These youngsters are well-read, capable, experienced in new dimensions of business and working practices, confident, and have an expectation of corporate life that will be tough to satisfy.

At the end of play the disjoint between the old and the new was all too evident and reinforced by the fact that there were no takers.

The reason? The newcomers were smart but they weren't corporate! Not for them the constraints of Dickensian working practices transported into an 'e-world'.

They were coming from the opposite direction, the other side of the wall, from an early and continual exposure to IT. E-communities, e-collaboration, e-teams and e-working are the norm for them and not something new or exceptional. Why would they want to go back in time? Unfortunately the CEO and his team had, unwittingly and unknowingly, just confirmed all of their fears!

So, where have all the young hopefuls gone? I suspect they are seeking out the new and vibrant young companies, or starting their own. And I don't think it will be long before we see them back. Their enterprises are going to be that much more efficient and faster, well informed and tactically able. With minds augmented by the power of IT and not challenged by it.


Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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