Not a handshake; more like a wink. I love that title, although I can’t take credit for it. It came from my wonderful “Gen Y” friend Leah Mindemann in response to my question, “How do Millennials and Gen Y’ers create real trust in relationships that are built online, not in person?” Leah told me that many times, her generation establishes trust online by sight. She said that building trust for them is “not a handshake; more like a wink”. She wasn’t implying that in-person relationships are occurring less often and her “wink” comment was not a reference to flirting. It’s just that her cohorts are willing to have the best of both worlds—in person and online. This means expansion of networks at a rate (and in ways) previous groups did not—and could not.
Her answer reminded me of information I received last year during a Birkman International webinar called “Generational Differences”. (www.birkman.com) Birkman has been gathering and publishing workplace data about age groups for many years. One section was about generational differences in trust building:
- Older generations had fewer resources and trust was built over time
- Younger generations have many more resources where trust is built through consistency of information
- Technology is driving this change and increasing the gaps between generations
- If technology continues to evolve at a rapid rate, the gap between generations will continue to widen
These points are part of a comprehensive presentation they made, which also found many areas of commonality between generations.
Leah’s comment and Birkman’s points led me to think about the larger implications of these changes, as the pace of creating trusted relationships online accelerates. I believe there’ll be an expansion of global entrepreneurism by this generation at an unprecedented rate. By “global entrepreneurism”, I mean companies created from Day 1 with employee “legs” in separate countries, all functioning under one overall umbrella and mission. Since they’re more willing to trust-by-sight, veils and myths about other countries and cultures will continue to fall, and the political and economic silos that have set the standards for defining success for entrepreneurs, including access to start up money and resources, will alter. My belief has been that you can create relationships online, but “digital trust” alone is not enough. Perhaps that is Baby Boomer thinking in a Gen Y/Millennial world! 🙂