Virtually every cocktail conversation with KMers, or anyone with teenagers, eventually leads to the topic of Millennials—their love for all things digital and how their learning styles differ from their parents. Maybe… but I have a hunch that we are confusing two things: generation and stage of life. Yes, the Millennial generation and all “digital natives” do have a stronger comfort level and preference for asking and trusting their search engine and their social network for advice than (maybe) do Baby Boomers. Don’t confuse that with being young and being more interested in their peers than in what older people have to say. After all, didn’t you feel the same way at their age?
The subject of millennials and their learning styles came up again in my interview with Dr. David Eagleman, neuroscientist and best-selling author. He had some very helpful advice for “experts” of a “certain” age, and how not to bore the people who work for them when they ask for expert advice. I asked Dr. David Eagleman this when I interviewed him recently for APQC’s Big Ideas, Big Thinkers Series. David is also keynoting at our upcoming KM conference.
David: We’re in the middle of a generational shift here in terms of learning styles. The way that things have traditionally been taught has to do with “just-in-case knowledge.” Our teachers downloaded everything to us in case we ever needed to know. The new generation is all about “just-in-time” knowledge. As soon as they need to know how to build an electronic circuit or fix a flat tire on their bicycle, they just look it up.
One thing that experts need to keep in mind when they’re passing knowledge on to the next generation is that the next generation needs the right information, not the shtick of the expert. I try to keep this in mind when I’m teaching people in my lab—they need the information, and not all the context I have and the stories about why I’m so great. Experts need to keep in mind is it’s not about us; it’s about the next generation picking up what’s important.
Dr. Eagleman will also be a keynote speaker at the 2015 APQC Knowledge Management Conference April 30-May 1.
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