Maturity and Moxy?

I don’t know much about building cars or how to fix them if something goes wrong, but I would say I’m a pretty good driver.

Driving a car is also how I think about information technology. And, even though I don’t speak geek, know very little about coding, and struggle to fix anything when it goes wrong, I use technology better than most people my age.

For me technology is simply an extraordinary gift providing previously unfathomable opportunities to communicate, share ideas, learn, grow, challenge, collaborate, advocate, engage, and make a difference together.

In other words, it really isn’t as much about the technology as it is how we use it as a means for providing meaningful content and opportunities. 

However this week I found myself trying to explain to a young’un that together with a partner I had built my first community portal pre-internet.

The look on his face was almost one of disbelief—mostly I think because he was having difficulty imagining a life without the internet, or it could be that he thought I was making it up. Anyway, I did explain to him that in the early 90’s we used a BBS or bulletin board system that people accessed using modems and phone lines. That really made him scratch his head. 

I did go on to share that from those olden days I had gone on to manage numerous other projects including the build of a national portal and a number of complex sites designed to support community leadership.

Along the way, there were significant and powerful learnings.

Surprisingly it wasn’t the learnings about technology that were the most critical because in some ways that kept getting easier as IT improved over the years. Instead, the learnings were about people. In other words, how to build community, communicate more effectively, develop teams, plan effectively, ensure relevant content, facilitate people working together etc.

Ultimately that’s what has me worried now that I finally have my own social enterprise, a tech startup called Campus for Communities of the Future.

Today it’s not unusual to see graduates fresh out of college and university garnering funding for tech start ups on the basis of an idea — generally one with a pretty narrow focus. Many of those getting funding have little if any practical experience.

While I’m not saying everyone needs do things as I did—meaning use their own resources to bootstrap a startup or slug away in the trenches for years, I do think we should all be concerned.

Yes I am glad it’s easier to get things started, however there is something to be said about the leadership experience, skills, and knowledge one manages to pick up in those trenches that helps get you beyond the start up to the finish line. And yes, the school of hard knocks also teaches you to take the hits and keep getting up again even when you don’t want to.

And yet to be totally honest, I am also totally envious of the mindset and the skills of today’s young’uns (meaning the GenY’s or Millennials). I simply don’t have what they have in terms of fearlessness, nimbleness, confidence, and willingness to jump.

I have great admiration for today’s young people even though I’m not sure they always see the value of what a baby boomer like me might bring to the table.

Regardless, I hope I’m wrong on that count because ultimately I think the maturity of the boomers matched with the moxy of the young’uns just might make for an epic partnership.

Posted on 11-24-17

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