Tuesday, December 09, 2008

GenNext Consulting -- Get It Free

One of the more interesting panels I sat on in 2008 was the ICCA pre-day "Super Star" event (Stuart Crawford, Erick Simpson, Dave Sobel, Matt Makowicz, Arlin Sorenson, me). It was particularly interesting because it was the only event I was involved in during 2008 that took a serious deep dive into considering the next generation of technology buyers and users.

Who are these GenNext people?

Well, consider this:

- They have never used a "wired" telephone (or a rotary phone for that matter)

- They have never lived without cell phones

- They have never lived without wireless internet

- They have never lived without Starbucks

- Their technical intuition is extremely well developed (e.g., "When I right click on that, it should give me more information.")

- They were born and raised at a MUCH higher level of technology than all of us born before Ronald Reagan was elected President. Gulp.

- They understand and relate to the generation that's about to hit the market: Those born about the time Bill Clinton was elected President. Gulp, spit.

- They have never experienced a world without the well developed Internet.

- They assume massive video on demand.

- They have no idea what a copyright is or why anyone would find that useful.

- Gigabit USB drives just exist -- There's nothing special going on here.

GenNext Citizens Think Differently

If you don't know a 16 year-old, borrow one for a few hours. Watch them use a computer. Pay very close attention to what they do and what they don't do. Video tape it and play it back a thousand times and you'll begin to understand how different these folks are.

They assume that, as they're going through a technical experience, the options that make sense to them at each specific moment are available. So they point and click and do what makes sense in the technical moment.

And here's a weird thing: They assume things that would never occur to you.

And here's another weird thing: They're right most of the time.

In other words, the software writers and UI writers have been building this Next Generation stuff right under your nose for YEARS and you didn't notice it. Just as you say "That won't . . .", the GenNext clicks on it and it works.

"What? I didn't know that. Do that again."

Here's the deal: You're going to be selling services to these people in the not-too-distant future. And they understand a world that (right now) you don't understand. But that world exists.

You see, the GenNext users have grown up without all the biases and technical stuff WE grew up with while they were getting born. We have a "world view" that is based in the past.

GenNext users have a different set of biases and a different world view. It's time to start learning them.

You know the joke that says "Can't figure out your new phone? Give it to a teenager for five minutes."

Well, that's true because the phone is built the way the teenager thinks. WE grew up learning to limit our thinking to what the computer demanded of us. Those days are gone.

There are three ways that the GenNext will affect your technology business:

1) If you develop software
You MUST take a page from Microsoft, Adobe, and the other "big boys." Make your software act and look the way the GenNext people are thinking.

If your interface hasn't changed in ten or fifteen years, you're losing money. And you're about to start losing it at a faster pace.

Behind the scenes, you might do miracles. But if you can't get the people who count to use the software, then you have nothing.

2) Buying Software
Stop buying old, clunky looking software. You are just investing in lower productivity.

Remember: the tools that got you where you are today will NOT get you to the future. They'll get you where you are today.

Yes, it costs money. But as things evolve, and we buy services instead of software, then we can always latch onto the newest, latest, greatest techniques and user interfaces.

We're talking about much more than "look and feel" here. This is fuctionality as it relates to human/computer interaction.

The difference between old school and GenNext can be dramatic.

Selling Software
Your current clients might be very happy using the same program for the NEXT ten years that they used for the LAST ten years, but your clients are going to change.

People born in 1990 are now starting businesses and buying hardware, software, and services.

They WILL buy something different from what you've been selling your average client.

What do you have to offer?


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