Some call it the “baby-boom echo,” but the generation born between 1977 and 1996 is actually bigger than the boom generation. They will dominate the 21st century, numbering over 2 billion people worldwide. They have grown up in the digital age and have been “bathed in bits.” There are more youngsters in this group who use the internet in China than in the U.S. They are the collaboration generation because these kids have grown up interacting.

The internet makes life an ongoing collaboration, and they love it. They can sift through information at the speed of light by themselves or with their network of peers. MySpace and Facebook are today’s largest networking communities with more than 100,000,000 young people hanging out there. Facebook was recently valued at over $50 billion! For the N-Geners it is their private space where they can also invite a thousand friends in.

The key point to this emergence is that it signals how today’s youngsters are predisposed to connect and collaborate with peers to achieve their goals. In the future, you will not be able to ignore the networks that these N-Geners are forming. As workers, this generation will transform the workplace and the way business is conducted to an extent not seen since the 1950s. Eighty million young people in the workforce will be a powerful force for new collaborations. They will also raise new challenges for employers trying to adapt to their new expectations. The N-Geners will demand highly collaborative and collegial work environments. Companies that will adapt to this new demand will gain a tremendous advantage in competitiveness and innovation.

There is a new perfect storm of technology, demographics and globalization developing. The result of this convergence will result in the change in the structure of the corporation itself as companies open up and collaborate with external resources. It is hard to believe that the lumbering industrial-age companies that we all know can be changed by this vast organized world of knowledge producers, but the fundamental change is already under way.