Stereotypes – Shaken and Stirred?

Last week I was invited to talk at a D Group event on the topic of Generation Y.  The discussion after my monologue was wide ranging and extremely interesting, particularly as it had a business leader perspective rather than a technology orientation. One element of my material that generated a deal of debate was a demographic analysis that I had prepared on ten months worth of my “why can’t I?” email collection. I’ve mentioned this weekly collation of incoming requests and challenges from my user base and how I use it as an insightful barometer of technology demand in an earlier post.  Spookily, the demand alignment to demographic stereotypes is pretty much what you might expect, for example demand for Android based tablets receiving corporate email and other services coming from Generation Y, but the same services for Apple iPhones/iPads coming from Generation X.   An interesting data point for me was that the demand for Microsoft Windows based tablets to be enabled for corporate services was almost entirely from Baby-Boomers which has some interesting implications perhaps for the Nokia/Microsoft link up announced today.  The only other requests overwhelmingly dominated by one demographic related to self selection of of smartphone or computer for use in corporate context; 80% of those requests were from Generation Y.   This is interesting as, just as in many other companies, Generation Y is a minority group within our population but that will change over the coming decade and it signals an emerging demand loud and clear (I’ll discuss the way I meet the demand on social media and also on personal smartphone use in a future post).

The term emerging also figured prominently as I prepared some material to present at the quarterly Fujitsu Executive Discussion Evening event that we provide for our customers.  The topic of the evening was innovation at the sharp end and some event materials may be found on the i-CIO website, including videos taken of speakers and attendees on the night.

I opened my presentation using an infographic which shows the most efficient nations at turning R&D spend into patents submitted in 2008 together with the raw numbers submitted on a world map.  As you view the map from west to east the efficiency dramatically rises until you find that South Korea is massively more efficient than any other country and in the same total number band as the USA and Japan. The United States does relatively poorly on the efficiency measure, certainly not what you might expect for the world’s largest economy; the UK has the same efficiency rating.  Now I would love to see the data repeated for 2009 and 2010 but I think we can probably safely assume that that rise of the countries like China, India and South Korea will not have slowed.

Perhaps what is interesting is to link the demographic perspective from my data set to the population trends in the emerging economic super-powers, and to the efficiency indicated by the infographic, to form a view on the location and drivers for future innovation.  Clearly filing patents is not the same as being certain that the invention will lead to a business innovation, i.e. a change in how we do something in either consumer or corporate space that generates business benefit and ultimately money.  However, it does give pause for though.  At the Intellect Annual Regent Conference last week Mike Lynch (the founder and CEO of Autonomy) gave an excellent interview (as reported by Nick Heath on Silicon.com) in which he said that the majority of start-ups in Silicon Valley today were being established by South Koreans and that, in his view, we need to attract the “uber-talented” to set up their companies in Britain to create jobs and innovation profit engines in our economy.  At the time I was surprised by the reference to South Korea – a day later I saw the infographic discussed above and a penny dropped for me!

It seems that the last a week or so proved some stereotypes to be correct for me but also shook up some of my preconceptions and thinking. All in all, that must have been a jolly good week!

Image credit: © nikkytok – Fotolia.com

[Updated 31 August 2011 to include David's presentation slides]