Sustainability, Gen Z, And The Future Of IT

Posted by Neil Sheppard on November 13, 2023
Sustainability, Gen Z, And The Future Of IT

A recent Forrester keynote presentation in London showcased the value of leveraging Gen Z workers and new technology to drive a sustainable growth mindset. Find out how LeanIX EAM can support your sustainability transformation and leverage innovation.

Forrester recently presented a keynote on the value of leveraging Gen Z workers to support you in adapting to a sustainable growth mindset. The environment the younger generation have grown up in has developed unique capabilities that business leaders need to drive a sustainability transformation.

Yet, collaborating with Gen Z on modernizing your infrastructure to support sustainability requires clarity on your IT landscape. That's why we've worked with PwC to develop sustainability reporting within LeanIX EAM.

To find out more, download our co-authored whitepaper with PwC:

USE CASE: IT Sustainability

In the meantime, let's look more closely at why Forrester believes Gen Z is the key to sustainability.

A Frustrating Story From Forrester

On October 13, 2023, in London, Forrester held its Technology and Innovation EMEA event with a keynote from Principal Analyst Bernhard Schaffrik. Bernhard's chosen topic was how technology and Gen Z can work together to drive sustainable growth.

Bernhard began by telling us a true, "frustrating story" about two unnamed gentlemen in the life science industry. They were developing testing strips that could be dipped into liquids to create a visual reaction to confirm their chemical make-up.

We all likely used these strips when testing the pH-value acidity of liquids in school science lessons, and have probably seen them used since to test urine for signs of diabetes and pregnancy. Yet, these plastic strips are usually disposable, leading to the production of non-recyclable waste.

The gentlemen Bernhard referred to in his speech developed a device that could test chemicals for indicators, upload the results to a mobile application, then be rinsed and re-used, causing no waste. The pair succeeded in creating a proof-of-concept for their new device.

However, when the pair went to their company sales and finance teams to move forward with the product, they were met with a cold reception. Their company saw the new re-usable test strip as undermining the organization's repeatable business model and rejected it out-of-hand.

The inventors of the re-usable test strip quit their jobs and founded their own start-up. Their company has since become a success and scaled up.

To Bernhard, this is an indication of how the traditional setup of enterprise encourages siloed thinking and represses innovation. This also serves to hold back crucial sustainability initiatives that could be allowing enterprise to support the environment, rather than damaging it.

To move forward into a sustainable future, enterprise must change its way of thinking. To do this, they may need to leverage an unexpected partner.

A Growth Mindset

According to Bernhard, adopting a growth mindset for a sustainable future requires a balance of four factors:

  1. Embracing modern technology
  2. Enhancing collaboration opportunities
  3. Fostering innovation and new ideas
  4. Adapting your mindset to new ways of thinking

Bernhard explained that new and beneficial ideas are out there waiting to be leveraged. We simply need to be open-minded enough to foster them.

As the famous quote from military adviser CD Jackson states:

“Great ideas need landing gear as well as wings”

CD Jackson

Great ideas are flying around the market, but we just need to foster them and bring them safely to the ground. Yet, the older generation may not be the right people to do this.

Business leaders have learned their trade in a traditional business model, without the benefit of new technology. According to Bernhard, fostering the right mindset to leverage innovative ideas about sustainability involves partnering with the younger generation.

Moving From Silo To Circular

Bernhard's keynote explained the priority for business leaders to move from traditional siloed thinking where you only consider your own part to play in the business, to looking at the big picture. Processes are no longer linear and repeatable, as this is the age of flexibility and innovation.

From government regulation on our carbon footprints, to increased costs from avoidable wastage, organizations that don't adapt to be more sustainable will struggle in the future. We can't reject innovative new ideas simply because they undermine our existing business models as the company that missed out on cornering the re-usable testing kit market did in our first example above.

In fact, the market is now focussed on the Netflix model of offering products 'as-a-service'. By persuading consumers to subscribe monthly to a service rather than making one-off purchases of products, vendors can ensure consistent revenue.

Likewise, offering a mobile application subscription to a results-tracking service with a physical testing sensor is a much more sustainable model than selling individual packs of 400 testing strips, and it's better for the environment too. This is the new mindset that Gen Z is bringing to organizations.

Gen Z has grown in a unique environment that has fostered a series of key capabilities in their culture that put them in the best position to adapt the business mindset. Bernhard explained that working with Gen Z improves your chances of achieving a sustainability transformation.

The Capabilities Of Gen Z

Gen Z is the generation of individuals born between 1997 and 2012. In other words, individuals who are now between the ages of 11 and 26.

Bernhard identified nine key aspects of the world Gen Z is grown up in that fosters a new business mindset. They are, of course, diverse individuals, but as a whole, their environment has given them some key capabilities.

1 An International Mindset

Since Gen Z has grown up online, with internet access to socialize globally, their friendships and acquaintances aren't limited to their current locality. They watch TV shows from France and listen to music from Korea, so they're far more aware of what's going on in the world.

2 A Focus On Collaboration

The capabilities of the internet to enhance and expand social interaction and remote collaboration are considered normal and essential to Gen Z. Despite the myth that young people spend all their time on their phones, Bernhard explained Forrester research shows Gen Z is more social and collaborative offline as well.

3 Valuing Diversity And Inclusion

Again, the global mindset of Gen Z leads to valuing the differences between people. Diversity and inclusion, and working together with people with different viewpoints, is standard practice for them.

4 Impatience With Inefficiency

Common wisdom also sees Gen Z as impatient and privileged. In truth, Bernhard explained, they are simply talented at and used to efficient ways of digital multi-tasking, and want to work to overcome the inadequacies of legacy systems.

5 Leveraging The Value Of Data

Often, the older generation balk at how willing Gen Z is to put their private information online, and see this as ignorance. However, Bernhard has discovered that Gen Z is actually more aware of data privacy, and know how to leverage their data to acquire useful services.

6 Shaped By The Climate Crisis

Gen Z's worldview has been shaped by growing up during a series of crises. Since climate change and pandemics aren't new to them, managing future crises is a key concern.

7 A Sense Of Purpose

At one time, the key goal of the average person was to simply move up the ranks of their career and enter a higher wage bracket. Gen Z, however, aims to be part of something, and achieving lasting change and improving sustainability matter far more to them than just monetary compensation.

8 Mental Health Above Trivial Benefits

Likewise, common workplace incentives like bonuses and free coffee mean very little to Gen Z. They care far more about their mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, leading them to prefer remote collaboration.

9 Forging Their Own Path

Lastly, Gen Z has grown up in the so-called gig economy, where crowdfunding and online side-projects are commonplace. As such, their career trajectory is often far less direct than simply climbing the corporate ladder.

Why Do We Care About Gen Z?

So, we now have a clear picture of who Gen Z is from Bernhard. Why is this so important?

Well, as Bernhard established, it's key for modern enterprise to adopt a new growth mindset with a focus on the sustainable future. Many leaders are struggling to understand this new way of doing things and that's why they can benefit from the support of young forward thinkers.

As Bernhard explained, driving a new way of working requires:

  1. Technological savvy
  2. Remote collaboration skills
  3. Openness to innovation and new ideas
  4. New ways of thinking

Looking through the list above, you can see that Gen Z, as a group, have all these capabilities and more. This means they are perfectly placed to partner with you on innovation and sustainability.

Leveraging The Capabilities Of Gen Z

Leveraging a new business mindset requires working with the innovative minds of the younger generation to re-imagine your organization. Bringing together the value of the older generation's experience and the new ideas of Gen Z will bring about the future of business.

To do that, however, you need to re-architecture your processes, strategy, and technology from the ground up. Whether it's application modernization to offer Gen Z the apps they want, or an enterprise resource planning (ERP) transformation to adapt to a new service model, you need enterprise architecture to guide you through the transformation.

New service models aren't just a linear production line, they involve vast, complex webs of inter-related systems and processes running 24/7 to drive value for your customers. Moving from your current setup to a state-of-the-art model requires careful planning and deep insight.

This is where LeanIX EAM comes in. Our enterprise architecture management platform will empower you to chart a course from siloed infrastructure to sustainable growth.

Empowering Gen Z With LeanIX EAM

Gain instant clarity on your application portfolio and entire IT landscape by using LeanIX EAM as a single source of truth for your organization. You can then use this data to visualize your target architecture and a roadmap to get you there.

We've also worked with PwC to include sustainability information and reporting, to empower you to adopt a sustainable growth mindset. To find out more, book a demo of EAM:

Request demo

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