Different generations have always clashed about how to approach work and use various tools and technologies. But in an era of mind-bending and unrelenting change, the challenges--and the gulf between generations--have grown exponentially. As more and more young workers push the envelope on consumer devices, including smartphones, and organizations rush to adopt collaboration tools, social media, location-based services, cloud services, virtualization and other systems, many CIOs find themselves reeling.
"People bring radically different assumptions and preconceived notions into how they view technology and its role in the workplace," says Andrew McAfee, associate director and principal research scientist of the Center for Digital Business at MIT's Sloan School of Management.
"Conventional thinking has always been that the younger workers adapt to the tools and systems an organization already has in place. But this business model no longer applies. The rules are being rewritten on the fly."
Welcome to the new workplace. For CIOs and other business leaders, it's an era filled with risk and opportunity. Those who take too conservative an approach--severely restricting devices and software--may make an organization less attractive to young workers, while inhibiting overall productivity. On the other hand, embracing new tools too eagerly can result in security and compliance risks, IT headaches and disenfranchised workers.