Search Not Just Numbers

Friday 17 April 2009

Ashton Kutcher and my 10 year-old: Why we should worry!

Two events this morning got me thinking about the future and what it will look like:
  1. Ashton Kutcher reached 1 million followers on Twitter, ahead of CNN;
  2. My 10 year-old son showed me the website he's built this week on his school holidays.

For those of you who don't know about Twitter, take a look at my earlier blog post, Twitter – What’s all the fuss about?

If we dig a bit deeper, these two seemingly unrelated events pose a stark threat (or wake-up call, depending on how you look at it) to those of us of a certain age (I'm 38).

Firstly, Ashton Kutcher, an actor, has become the first Twitter account to reach 1 million followers. CNN's breaking news account was looking like it would be the first to reach the million, and Mr. Kutcher laid down a challenge, among other things offering to buy 10,000 malaria nets for Africa if he got there first. CNN responded encouraging its TV viewers to log on and follow them. Even bringing out the big guns such as Larry King.

CNN has a team of staff updating its Twitter account, providing very valuable content, i.e. real-time updates of breaking news from one of the world's leading news networks. Ashton Kutcher updates his entirely on his own, with no additional resources beyond his PC, a mobile phone and a broadband connection.

Secondly, my son Ben, entirely on his own, has set up a website where he can post whatever he chooses (I'll be checking regularly). He got into Twitter last month.

What does all of this mean?

The world of communication is changing incredibly rapidly. One individual with a PC (granted he's a famous actor, but he's still one individual) can get his message out to the world and inspire a greater following than one of the world's biggest providers of "old-fashioned" communication.

A whole generation is coming through now that see these methods of communication as second-nature. They will be working in your business (and your competitors' businesses) very soon. They will also soon be your customer and suppliers.

Those of us in senior positions now - if we are still planning to be in the workforce in 20, or even 10 or 5 years time, need to sit up and take notice. The rules are changing, and we'll be dead in the water if we don't grasp the nettle now (a bit of a mixed metaphor, but you get the point). Going into an economic recession can only accelerate the process - those organisations, and employees, that understand these technologies will be the ones that thrive, and keep their jobs. Those that don't will be the ones that fall by the wayside.

I don't want to finish on a negative note. We still have a head-start on this next generation - there is a great opportunity if we act now. If you haven't already, set up accounts on Twitter (takes 5 minutes), Facebook, Linkedin and the like. Have a dig around and see what you can learn. Right now, the combination of business experience alongside these skills makes you invaluable, but that won't be a differentiator in a few years' time when this generation gathers experience. See you in there.

The time to act is now!

Good luck in this brave new world.

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