Weekly Update

Could you do your job without a smartphone or tablet? Or the web?

Bank of America released its Small Business Owners report last week, and several of the findings are interesting, particularly the generational differences regarding technology.

59 percent of Boomers said they could run their business indefinitely without a smartphone or tablet, but only 39 percent of Gen Xers and 22 percent of Millennials said the same. In fact, 44 percent of Millennials and Gen Xers said they could only successfully run their business without a smartphone or tablet for one day or less.

I’ve made a similar argument for years — in the context of business in general, not small business in particular. Social and mobile tools have become so important to our work that we basically can’t do business without them.

In my personal case, I actually have gotten to the point where it is difficult to work without connection to the web. Just consider the tools I use:

  • To keep track of deadlines I rely on Todoist, and there is no offline version.
  • I used saved.io for bookmarks and, again, no offline version.
  • I keep notes taken during meetings and calls in Google Keep. No offline version.
  • Most importantly, the way I share my work with colleagues is 100 percent online, through Google Drive, email, and tools like Slidebean (see “Google Keep and Slidebean add sharing”).

Yes, I occasionally do write using Pages or Word without connection to the web, but the things that I am writing about or the materials I need — links, facts, quotations — are not local to my laptop or tablet. I simply cannot do “work” without that connection.

So, perhaps Bank of America should have asked whether the small business owners could run their business without connection to the web. I bet the percentages would still fall out pretty much the same way, with the Boomers being least wired. This follows, because only about half of Boomers rated themselves an A or B in tech savviness, while 74 percent of Gen Xers and 85 percent of Millennials did.

Millennials are the most likely to say that technology allows them to feel in control, with 77 percent responding in that way, while Boomers are the most likely to say technology allows them to feel balanced with work and personal life. However, it’s only 43 percent of them saying that, so the majority of all generations lacks that balance.

Boomers are the least optimistic about the economy, with only 35 percent saying that the U.S. economy will improve in the next 12 months, contrasting with 45 percent of Gen Xers and 74 percent of Millennials. Let’s hope that this is a case where experience doesn’t trump enthusiasm.