I recently heard this at a dinner party – one where everyone else who attended seemed to dislike social media.

One of the guests works for an engineering company and he was talking about how new graduates in his office were more comfortable using laptops than pens and paper (which are used by older generations in the company). This in itself presented problems around how older and younger employees communicate.

He then went on to discuss how the graduates approached a project that was just starting in a city in one of the former Soviet Union states (I forgot the name of the country). The project involved designing better civic spaces in a city that featured quite an exreme climate.

Given the brief, the students went away and used Facebook to gather feedback from more than 3,000 people who lived in that particular city. When they came to feed back their results the older generation were quite taken aback by the results (which challenged their orthodox thinking for such countries).

Not only did the research provide rich data from the people that mattered in this project it also cost nothing to carry out – historically, such a piece of research would have cost tens of thousands of pounds.

We didn’t go in to the detail of how the graduates did the research but I thought it was a great idea from them.