Growing up with personalised technology has made some things easy for today’s young adults.

Many of these so-called digital natives are adept at communicating via social media and texting. Apps such as Uber are customised for users and let them complete complicated tasks (like navigating from A to B in a strange city) by pushing a single button.

But that means programmes like Outlook and Excel — the workhorses of modern corporate life — feel primitive, alien, and complicated to them, according to Chris Pope, senior director of strategy at the technology services company ServiceNow.

It gets worse. Many young adults still can’t use Google efficiently. One study of college students at Illinois Wesleyan cited by Time found that just 23% (seven of 30 interviewed) were able to conduct a “well-executed” Google search. An Inside Higher Ed account of the study said:

They were basically clueless about the logic underlying how the search engine organises and displays results. Consequently, the students did not know how to build a search that would return good sources. (For instance, limiting a search to news articles, or querying specific databases such as Google Book Search or Google Scholar.)

“I think it really exploded this myth of the ‘digital native,'” project lead Andrew Asher told Inside Higher Ed. “Just because you’ve grown up searching things in Google doesn’t mean you know how to use Google as a good research tool.”

The Illinois Wesleyan study was commissioned to find out why students seem to be so bad at research. It begins by noting that most students can’t find the campus library, and the ones who can don’t know how to ask a librarian for help.

This article is published in collaboration with Business Insider. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Lucy covers technology at Business Insider UK.

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