Now onto the second part (for real this time) of my look at the ’98 ‘Twitch Speed’ article by Marc Prensky. This time I’m looking at the Payoff vs. Patience section (page 5).
One way in which I may misread Prensky is the degree to which he is describing the differences (as he sees them) between “natives” and “immigrants”, versus celebrating them. I usually read his stuff as mainly the latter – and I think this is his take, that the changes are almost uniformly for the better. Am I misreading Prensky? I don’t think so, but I’d be happy to hear otherwise. But onto the review…
The question of whether the change is ‘better’ or just ‘different’ certainly applies here. Indeed, in describing the increasing need for immediate feedback and constant stimulation, Prensky could almost be making the same case as Neil Postman does in ‘Amusing Ourselves to Death’. Except with the opposite opinion on whether this is a good thing or not.
Certainly, with need for immediate feedback, does this mean Prensky thinks that todays Digital Natives lack foresight, insight and the ability to make long-term plans? What kind of immediate feedback do these people deserve and/or need in the workplace? Some kind of constant ego-stroking and supplies of cookies every time they do a good thing?
“Why, they ask, should I finish school when elementary school kids can design professional Web sites, 20-year-olds can start billion-dollar companies, and Bill Gates, who left school for something with more payoff, is the world’s richest man?”
The elementary school kid bit is clearly an exaggeration for effect. Yes, school kids can make web pages – there are enough tools out there that make it easy – but how many school kids can make professional quality web sites? And as for entrepreneurs like Gates – yes it is true that many of them (Michael Dell, Richard Branson, Alan Sugar… ) left either school or university before completing, but these are the success stories, and these are driven people. Entrepreneurs don’t get constant payoffs – they generally have to invest significant amounts of their time before they get any payoff at all. If the Digital Natives don’t realise this, then they could get a shock.
I think such entrepreneurs do make useful role-models but so do Larry Page and Sergei Brin, who were PhD students when they developed Google. Ok, they didn’t finish their PhD’s – but neither did they originally intend to go into business.
“…it was at first strange to me that the same people who prefer ‘twitch’ games often have great patience with the… long waiting times in a game like Myst.”
Excuse me? For the most part Myst was played by people who don’t prefer ‘twitch’ games. Again, this paragraph ends with words to the effect that Digital Natives need rewards now – rather than payoffs “in the long run”. Again – see entrepreneurs.
“One clear business manifestation of this… is the increasing demand for a clearer link between what employees do and the rewards they get, leading to the growing trend toward pay-for-performance.”
Hmm. Try this web search. Or take out the ’2006′ for a broader perspective.
To the extent that this paragraph is true about the trends for spin-offs and for equity as compensation, I would suggest it is only true for a tiny percentage of companies and for very specific sectors of industry. And more so in some countries and regions that others. I certainly don’t see any of this as representative of the general state of affairs in the UK.
All in all, I think I’ve found enough things to disagree with in these three paragraphs. I don’t think the logic is as twisted or bizarre as in the “Fantasy vs. Reality” section that follows. But still, plenty to argue about.
I’m only going to make one more entry about this paper, because I’ve had about as much as I can take.