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“Precisely because things are going so well in Brainport Eindhoven, it is important to link the power of today to the challenges of tomorrow. According to Arnold Stokking, Managing Director Industry at TNO and initiator of the future exploration of Brainport Eindhoven; where are the opportunities for the region when it comes to innovation and new business models in 2038? In this biweekly column, Stokking and those directly involved explain important points from this future exploration. Here the previous episodes.

By Dorien Verdier, Director Strategic Alliances SintLucas

Recently I was at one of the meetings about the Brainport Future Exploration: Brainport 2038. In these meetings, CTOs, CEOs, professors, teachers and directors of knowledge institutions and companies from the region discuss future scenarios and themes that we want to work towards in the long term. It is often about technological developments and smart high-tech systems. About the manufacturing industry and how well we can work together in this Brainport region, because that has made us great. A problem that is high on our agenda is whether in the future – in fact: already now – we can attract and train enough talent to help shape this bright future. And this is an area in which I think we are not working well together.

What I mean by that specifically is working together between the generations. About the integration of differences between the protest generation (also called baby boomers, born after 1945) and the millennials (Generation Y, also called network generation or screenagers, born between 1980 and 2000). The people in control in large organisations are mainly older white men (baby boomers). They occupy the most important seats on ministries, on boards of directors, at banks, public broadcasters and in journalism. This protest generation is mainly focused on MSP: money, status and power. On control through planning and acquiring more money, status and power. Without immersing themselves in the culture of generation Y, the baby boomers invent measures to develop and stimulate this generation. Tests, rules and procedures… all formulated in thick reports with only text. With the prospect of MSP: soon also that bonus, shares and a leased car.

“The people in control in large organisations are mainly older white men (baby boomers). The millennials, on the other hand, do not listen to an authority just because it is an authority”

The millennials, on the other hand, do not listen to an authority just because it’s an authority, they find this a cultural mistake of previous generations. They live in a relatively hierarchy-low world, in which rankings do not have so much meaning, because everyone is a member of different networks at the same time. They live more in a sound and image culture than in a text culture. Their distinctive skill is multitasking and the ability to communicate 24/7 in different networks. Feeling good and being able to be yourself is important (respect as a greeting); they are not left or right but issue-driven. People, Planet, Profit are values that this generation finds important. They do not aim for a large leased car, but for the experience. They prefer to cruise to work on their skateboard between traffic jams.

“This generation is not interested in a large car and a swimming pool in the garden, but is looking for meaning.”

The gap between the two generations means that there is a disconnect in important areas such as politics, business and education. In business, the disconnect is mainly about innovation. The protest generation is going to legalize cooperation using competition clauses and patents, while the millennials have invented open source and open innovation. The millennials experience politics as dramatically slow and therefore largely as a waste of time. Education is structured according to a linear learning model in which the student works from easy to difficult. No attention is paid to the ability of screenagers to learn iteratively and concentrically or to research and process large amounts of data into a meaningful whole.

During the future exploration meetings, I regularly discuss these differences and the gap between the generations: “This generation is not interested in a large car and a swimming pool in the garden, but is looking for meaning.” And then I hear several colleagues say: “But still, it’s nice when you have one…”

Is the protest generation willing to really immerse themselves in and respect the new generation? Only then will Brainport attract enough young talents and will we continue to be successful in the future. A future in which social innovation takes off and in which social inclusiveness and dealing well with the earth is a matter of nature.

The above is the result of conversations with and research by Mathieu Weggeman, who as professor of organizational science does research into this subject.

To map the future of Brainport Eindhoven as broadly as possible, all ideas are more than welcome. If you would like to think along with us, please contact us at [email protected]