How the Connected Generation Is Re-shaping the Modern Enterprise

Today's economies and societies are fueled by rapid technological disruption and change. Continuous innovation, the rapid digitization of services, and the unprecedented number of connected devices are at the epicenter of this upheaval. New technologies, industry standards and norms, and the generational habits of those who crave connection contrasts sharply with the old establishment and the "traditional way of doing things." These forces are creating new paths and new opportunities for employees in the modern workplace. In order to survive and thrive as leading and modern enterprises of the future, organizations must rethink how their employees do their best work, how to manage their top talent, and how to structure their business processes and operations.

Who is Generation C?

Paradoxically, it's one of our youngest generations sending these shockwaves to our organizations. A seismic force in culture, connectivity, collaboration, and commerce, Generation C is unique in that they are defined more by their skillset and habits, and less strictly by their age as compared with previous generations. Sixty-five percent of "Generation C" are under 35, spanning both Generation Y and Millennials. The C stands for content, which speaks to this generation's new ability and obsession to create, share and communicate at a pace, and on a scale never before imagined.

For the first time ever, "Millennials" claimed the largest portion of the American workforce this year. It's this influx of content creators and community connectors who are empowered by technology, versatile in their approach and curious to learn outside of their core skillsets. They communicate internally and externally. They promote collaboration inside the organization, energizing a shift from traditionally hierarchical operating models. They embrace new ways of working with remote schedules, bring your own device (BYOD), usage of an explosive number of apps and services for professional and personal tasks, and reliance on devices that are updated faster than IT can possibly troubleshoot. As the magnitude of these changes redefine the modern workforce, companies must too reevaluate how they build their strategies for long-term and sustainable success.

Collaboration is the Catalyst

Generation C isn't contributing to this massive workforce change in a silo. In fact, they are blending together various new ideas and ways of doing things, effectively eroding long-standing company hierarchies or barriers. Superior business performance today requires that every employee be an engaged and active contributor - this includes employees, as well as every supplier, partner and distributor inside the organization and across the extended ecosystem. Collaboration today is also pushing the bounds of convention - robots in the home and the business context are being used to support work such as simple marketing tasks, to advanced medicine, entertainment, and even defense projects. Added to this, the IoT is galvanizing an enormous amount of exploration, and big data analytics continues to capture our attention and draw big financial investments.

Collaboration is the new organizational buzzword, standing in sharp contrast to traditional enterprise siloes, or divisional or departmental empires. Collaboration breaks down boundaries, instills transparency, and creates a unified view of the business. In the modern and networked economy, employees are working more closely with different arms of the business. Gone are the days, for example, when IT and security were mere service providers. Today, they're true partners with the business, and everyone must all come together to seize opportunities and mitigate new risks. Initiatives such as management programs for flat structures and job rotation programs to broaden experience also give the modern workforce much more exposure to the business vertically and horizontally than ever before.

Looking out over Silicon Valley, I can see that some of the most inspired and ground-breaking work is a culmination of our own internal employees, as well as the inputs of partners, the freelancers and the eLancers of the world. Solving a big problem in a simple way requires diverse, cross-team, and cross-functional collaboration. Our job as business leaders is to continuously cultivate an autonomous yet highly collaborative workforce.

What about Holacracy?

A corollary of the rise of collaboration, is the belief that "management by authority" is history. What's filling in the gap is a new way of running a successful organization -- called Holacracy. This is the future of how we will work. Emerging in Silicon Valley from the founders of Twitter, Yammer and others, is this notion of a system of governance that divests power from a management hierarchy and distributes authority across self-organizing teams. Everyone is led and driven by accountability.

Modern enterprises of today and of the future are altering their organizational structures in this vein, in response to this new generation, and the massive technology trends around us. More wary of size as the primary indicator of future success, companies are driving instead toward accountable, purpose-driven, agile teams of "small sailboats" all pointed in the same direction, rather than one monolithic ship. It's akin to that critical startup state of mind that propels a business forward by passion, teamwork, innovation, "never say die" and customer focus. Companies that edify this type of culture have a tremendous opportunity to make a real impact.

Grooming the Next Generation of Leaders

Modern enterprises of the future must look to the "Generation C" phenomenon as they groom their next generation of business leadership. These new leaders will be at the helm of an organizational ecosystem that is marked by community, collaboration and connection. Success will be increasingly driven by a foundation of research, by real-time intelligence, by strategies based on internal as well as external factors, and exceptional execution rooted in closed-loop metrics for continuous improvement. Supported by apps, innovative technologies, consulting and advisory help, the dynamic and the hybrid leaders of today and tomorrow will embed mobility, social, and cloud into the company's DNA. I believe that the business leaders of tomorrow are incredibly well poised to help our organizations, governments, and economies rise to a new level of business performance in the most sustainable, well-governed and risk-aware manner possible. Watch out world, generation C is here to stay.