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  • November 6, 2019
  • By Marydee Ojala Editor in Chief, KMWorld, Conference Program Director, Information Today, Inc.
  • Article

Take a Bow for the Next Generation KM

I’ve long been accustomed to thinking of generations in terms of people. There’s my generation, my children’s generation, my parents’ generation, my grandparents’ generation, and so on. I chalk this up to my uncle’s being an avid genealogist. Delineating generations like this works well for one family. When you start considering multiple families, it can get a bit tricky. I know a couple, of almost the same age, where the husband’s grandmother is 2 years younger than the wife’s mother. You routinely find generational discrepancies depending on the age of the mother when she gave birth. It’s always interesting to find, in a family history, that an aunt’s niece is older than the aunt. That makes the definition of “next gen” a bit fuzzy.

Beyond individual families, we’ve gotten into the habit of naming generations. We have Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964; Gen X, born between 1965 and 1976; Gen Y or Millennials, born between 1977 and 1995; and the current generation, sometimes called Gen Z but also known as the iGen generation or Genzennials. The birth dates are a bit flexible, not an absolute. I’ve seen Millennial birth dates as being from 1981 (rather than 1977) to 1995. Those born on a cusp of a generation could define themselves as part of either one. If someone born in 1946 had a child in 1964, are they really both Baby Boomers?

Next Gen Tech

When applied to people, generations tend to span many years. When it comes to technology, the timeline speeds up considerably. The next generation could supersede a technology that was brand new only last year. It seems like there is always a “new and improved” version of whatever you currently own waiting to claim your money. From smartphones to operating systems, technology moves on at an astonishing pace.

It’s always amusing to recall prominent people’s misstatements about technology. To my mind, the funniest is the founder of IBM, Thomas Watson, saying in 1943 that “there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Now that we have many next generations of technology in the intervening 76 years, Watson was clearly wrong. In his defense, a computer of the 1943 generation was nothing like today’s computer. Not only did one computer take up an entire room, its computing power was limited and its knowledge base infinitesimal compared to what we enjoy today.

From the vantage point of 1943, it would have been hard to imagine the advances in KM and the role technology plays in our everyday lives. And yet, some frustration about customer service persists regardless of the generation of the customer or the generation of the technology. Customer dissatisfaction revolves around the knowledge of the personnel with whom they are interacting. And by personnel, I of course include both human and non-human personnel. As technology enables computers to act and sound more and more like human beings, the customer service experience demands a high degree of knowledge from both. It shouldn’t matter whether it’s an FAQ on a website or a phone conversation with an actual person, the knowledge base should be sufficient to meet customer needs and solve their problems.

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