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 / Spring 2011 / Issue 62(originally published by Booz & Company)


The Rise of Generation C

Travel. By 2020, business travel will decline in the face of costs and alternative meeting technologies. In the leisure segment, traditional intermediaries such as travel agents have already been largely cut out, and peer reviews have become a dominant form of deciding on vacation destinations. This will lead to increasingly individualized travel, online advice and information dictating travel plans in real time. The distinction between travel and home will blur (as the distinction between the office and home already has), and the off-the-grid getaway will become a luxury.

Even the concept of distance will be transformed, as the world becomes fully modeled in 3-D, and open for inspection by prospective visitors. The digital world will also further invade the car. For the driver, this will lead to better information on the roadside environment — another instance of augmented reality — along with improved safety through the presence of sensors that check for drivers’ sleepiness or drunkenness, and simplified car maintenance based on remote diagnostics. It will also improve the efficiency of the street network, allowing for instant data on traffic and providing the ability to determine traffic flow.

Is Your Company Ready?

There is already evidence of some of the changes that will be brought about by the coming generation of workers and consumers, and increasing speculation about the path of future change. Few businesspeople, however, have fully grasped the implications for every industry. The arrival of Generation C will have an impact comparable to that of the Industrial Revolution, but it will take place much more quickly. For managers, it is no longer sufficient to plan for the next few quarters, or even the next few years. Companies that aren’t willing to determine their strategies for the longer term — 10 to 15 years out — are putting their business models and value chains at risk. Executives must begin now to develop an agenda that includes an analysis of the capabilities and workforces they will need in the next decade and beyond. A critical step will be to make sure that the organization as a whole understands the coming changes, and that there are already people within the organization who are living these changes now, who don’t perceive them as a threat, and who can help integrate them into the organization’s business plan.

The world of 2020 will be set and governed by the members of Generation C, as they mature and grow in numbers and power. How businesses choose to cater to this coterie will determine their success — and even their ability to survive — in the coming decades. 

How the Tech Future May Unfold

It is notoriously difficult to project the future; still, the exhibit below presents a plausible chronology of the next 10 years. We see a series of “eras” triggered by the sequential rise of critical new technologies. The Era of the Smart Cloud, for instance, will enable significant portions of the Generation C lifestyle in the coming years, to be succeeded by the Era of the Sensor Economy, which the cloud will help trigger. Above the time line is a series of specific events keyed to and dependent on the arrival of the various eras; thus the Era of the Internet of Things will enable motor vehicle manufacturers to build cars with full machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity.

Reprint No. 11110

Author Profiles:

  • Roman Friedrich is a Booz & Company partner based in Düsseldorf and Stockholm. He specializes in strategic and technology transformation, and marketing and sales challenges in the communications, media, and technology industries.
  • Michael Peterson is a Booz & Company partner based in Düsseldorf and London. He specializes in corporate strategy and business model transformation for communications companies and in convergence and customer-facing processes in the broader media and telecommunications environment.
  • Alex Koster is a Booz & Company principal based in Zurich. He focuses on strategy, revenue growth, and business model transformation opportunities across communications, technology, and Internet companies. 
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  1. Roman Friedrich, Michael Peterson, Alex Koster, and Sebastian Blum, “The Rise of Generation C” (PDF), Booz & Company white paper, March 2010: The paper from which this article was adapted.
  2. Michael Peterson, Volkmar Koch, Florian Gröne, and Kiet Vo, “Online Customer, Digital Marketing: The CIO–CMO Connection” (PDF), Booz & Company white paper, August 2009: Why information and marketing officers must work together to develop a marketing architecture for an increasingly digital and connected future.
  3. Daniel W. Rasmus, “Keeping Up with Workforce 2020,” s+b, 2/24/2009: How organizations can adopt and internalize the technology and skills needed to thrive in an increasingly virtual and flexible work environment.
  4. Clay Shirky, Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age (Penguin Press, 2010): How the Internet and its tools will change leisure time, society, and the process of innovation.
  5. For more thought leadership on this topic, see the s+b website at:
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