iGen Tribe Manifesto

“Men resemble the times more than they resemble their fathers.” – Old Arabian Proverb

Millennials, Gen Y, Echo Boomers, First Digitals — these are just a few of the names that describe the next generation to enter the workforce. However, stop the bus! We never asked to be called Millenials (that is so 1999), or Gen Y (don’t even get me started on that), or Echo Boomers (what is an Echo Boomer?) or First Digitals (Sounds like a camera company).

However, it is critical that we choose an appropriate name for this generation. Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Every word was once a poem. Every new relation is a new word.” So, right now and right here – World, please take note!

We are iGen.

And how important is this generation to society? Absolutely critical!

This is a time of soaring expectations and crushing realities. Joan Chiaramonte, head of the Roper Youth Report, says that for young people “the gap between what they have and what they want has never been greater.” While families could once achieve middle-class status on the earnings of one high school-educated person, it now takes two college-educated earners to achieve the same standard of living. However, this group of young people are very good at staying positive and seeing the silver lining. This stems from the parents of this generation being obsessed with self-esteem. Self-esteem breeds optimism, and this optimism makes them emotionally able. This optimism also means that this generation will be the one to shake off the shackles of recession and restart the world economy.

Oh, I know – we are the Facebook Generation! Or even Generation F. Um, no. Fail. Our apologies for that, but keep trying! Why? Well, 2004 saw the launch of Facebook as a social network. In 2010, Facebook has 500 million users, and is starting to bump up against the G-giant. Our generation publicizes our private lives. One of the allures of Facebook is that everyone can be a celebrity. We are stars of our very own People Magazine. That might be important, maybe even critical, when popularity is the only currency we have. (I’m thinking high-school students here). But once the generation matures, and finds itself with responsibility, self-awareness and the realization that once you post to the cloud, it resides in the cloud forever – you will see a “Facebook backlash”. Yip, Bruce Nussbaum has already seen the start of it. Good on yer, Bruce. As of this year, I don’t have a personal Facebook profile. Why? Because I choose not to. We are not the Facebook Generation, just as the Baby Boomers weren’t the Television Generation. Our generational influences are much deeper than a social network platform. Don’t confuse the stamp with the impression it leaves.

Some may say we are Generation Me,  as studies show we are the most narcissistic generation. However, that description does not take account of the technological shift in society that has accompanied our generation’s development. I do agree that our generation is the most self-absorbed, I think defining the Generation as Generation ME is a bit limiting.  It overlooks the integration of  technology into our everyday life that has marked an epoch in the way the world is.

So what would we like to be called?

We are the iGeneration.

The first letter “i” has a nest of intrinsic meanings: it could stand for Internet (as it does in iMac and iPod) or for the first person singular that stands for the individual. It is both technologically-competent and self-absorbed (doesn’t that sound like an iGen to you?).

Its pronunciation also appropriately suggests vision, because this is a visionary and optimistic generation too. These young people want to shape a new world. It’s an appropriate name for a generation raised with on-demand “iMedia” like TiVo, the Internet, and the ever-present iPod.

So who are the iGen? Some writers will have you believe that anyone who uses social media to any degree is part of iGen. But that is incorrect. Social networking and technology has become so pervasive, that everyone is emailing, texting, Facebooking, Tweeting, BBMing, sharing albums online, using Google Earth, emailing etc. However, the difference is the generational approach to technology – how the generations interpret technology.

The generations interpret the advent of technology in the light of their previous experiences. Thus, the baby boomers all think the internet is like a television, and it’s in the language they use (“its in the computer”, “electronic gizmothingymajig”). GenX think of the internet in terms of satellite or cable TV (“lots of choice – topdown broadcasting”). Boomers and some GenXers text using their forefingers (“its a telephone, and you press the numbers with your forefinger, because that is how I’ve always done it” – like one of those old circular interfaces that would swing round when you “dialed”). However, iGen think the internet is like the internet (a network of interconnected computers that allow one lots of choice, but also the opportunity to broadcast bottom-up).

Even stuffy Gen X researchers are starting to notice the rise and trends of this group.  iGen Consulting is about to become the next big management fad or big business book. But there is some merit to this. For instance, does your organization know what iPod training is? Well, if you want to be around in 5 years time, you better…

In terms of ambition and interaction within an organization, rather than a “ corporate ladder”, members of iGen think of career paths as multidimensional — moving around and across rather than just “up”. Leadership is about relationships, networks, and webs — not bureaucratic hierarchies. And if you don’t get that, forget succession-planning! iGen are not loyal to a hive, but to a tribe. You may see this as a weakness of the new generation. However, this is the strongest feature of iGen.

We exist in tribes.

If you want our loyalty and buy-in, we need to feel we belong. We use the social networking infrastructure available to us to build strong, resilient, vibrant and passionate virtual communities – this allows us to collaborate and create, produce and ship. Our tribe is where we grow, our tribe is where we feel we belong, our tribe is who we are.

This is the iGen Tribe Manifesto.