In a previous web article, I explored the ways IT leaders can expand conversations with their business-oriented counterparts to become business co-creators. For starters, IT leaders must reach beyond their technology expertise and become versed in corporate growth initiatives. This means they must surround themselves with a diverse group of IT and business mindsets.
The conversation about how an enterprise can truly succeed in digital initiatives often revolves around the inclusion of millennials. But framing it this way – by focusing on an age-based subset – misses the opportunity to realize the benefits of diversity, namely better problem-solving. Instead of focusing on just a certain demographic, IT leaders should focus on the functional characteristics they need in their team members:
- Seek out the “digital native.” The “digital native” immerses him or herself both personally and professionally in a technological ecosystem. He or she has a digital-first mindset – a way of thinking that many of today’s most progressive companies still struggle to internalize. IT leaders in the digital age should seek people who default to digital-first, regardless of their age.
- Seek out the impatient innovator. Millennials are claimed to be impatient with inefficiency and dissatisfied with the status quo. These are the same qualities entrepreneurs and designers have long embodied, qualities that drive them to innovate crafty ways to make a product or system more efficient. Because the tech tools at their disposal have lowered the barriers for even the modestly enterprising, business leaders now find these characteristics more attractive than ever. IT leaders should seek out the naturally enterprising and resourceful worker, too, regardless of their age.
- Seek out the observer. The desire for instant gratification – and what some may consider an inclination toward laziness – are characteristics many associate with millennials. But could these attributes be read as a natural tendency toward the path of least resistance? Whether it is a derivative of laziness, scarcity, simplicity or something else, the urge to find a better way can lead to interesting results. For example, my grandmother (now nearing 90) was an early adopter of the iPad and its voice-commands because it was just easier to use than her Windows PC. The use and adoption of a technology is often born out of a desire for ease. IT leaders should seek out the trend-watchers and anthropologists-by-nature, regardless of their age.
Fundamentally, digital initiatives are about efficiency, intuitive design, Occam’s razor and perhaps even utopian idealism. Assuming all millennials practice the habits of design thinking – and assuming that people of other ages don’t – promulgates a simplistic falsehood and limits team diversity. Instead, build teams comprised of individuals who portray the functional characteristics that matter most in today’s dynamic marketplace and increase your opportunity for smart problem-solving.
About the author
Chris Pflum is an analytical technologist and corporate strategy professional with experience leading and managing fast-paced network operations teams. Chris brings five years of Internet of Things (IoT) experience in the clean technology sector and managerial expertise in networked services in a Network Operations Center. He has successfully supported both domestic and international clients with globally reaching operations. He works with state and local governments and companies in the manufacturing, commercial goods, consumer electronics, agriculture, utilities and food and beverage industries.