Thursday, 28 February 2008

Boomer, Gen X and Millenials

An early start again – I’m not sure why, but all American conferences seem to start at 8am. I had had an early morning wake up call, when someone (who shall remain nameless but he knows who he is), texted me at 4am to tell me about the earthquake! I wasn’t impressed.

One of the first sessions this morning was about Generations, Technology and workstyles from Neil Howe. A very entertaining and interesting session about different generations, the things that have affected them and their attitude to technology and the workplace. The generations identified were:

The GI generation – born between 1901 and 1924, so today are aged 83 and over. Walt Disney. John Wayne. Ronald Reagan, John Kennedy, Maggie Thatcher, Ghandi. Protected by a huge wave of child protection laws, prohibition, free vitamins, drug act. The most uniformed generation. Went to moon. Optimistic. Identification with public purpose. Their children are the Boomer generation.
IT/innovation – vacuum tube, radio and TV networks, newsreels

The Silent Generation – born between 1925 and 1942, so today are aged between 65 and 82. Colin Powell, Martin Luther King, Elvis Presley, Gorbachev, Chirac.
The crisis generation – lived through many. Kept heads down in McCarthy era. Married and had kids earlier than any other generation. Fortunate. Upwardly mobile all lives. Conformed.
IT /innovation – mainframe, transistor, hi-fi, avant-garde media

Boomers – born between 1943 and 1960, so are aged between 47 and 64
Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Tony Blair, me!
Individualism – sense of self-sufficiency. Rejected establishment. Didn’t trust anyone over 30, now want to police anyone under 30. Took drugs to think outside the box, now give kids drugs to behave inside the box.
IT/innovation – integrated circuit, PC, VCR, cable TV, alternative and new journalism

Gen X- born between 1961 and 1981, so today are aged between 26 and 46
Barrack Obama, Kurt Cobain, Tiger Woods, David Cameron
Comfortable with winners and losers. Heard many negative predictions about themselves. Hate politics, don’t vote. Very few public figures, but a lot in business. Had “unwanted” childhoods. Divorce rate ramped up, schools no longer worked, fertility rate fell, didn’t seem to want kids. Culture turned anti child. Evil child movie era. Latch key kids. But, they revived the economy and are efficient and resilient.
IT/innovation – microchip, internet, digital media, cellphone, blog, web commerce

Millennial generation – born from 1982 onwards, so today are aged up to 25
Mark Zuckerberg, Hilary Duff.
New sense of protection of kids. Divorce rate went down, “baby on board” stickers appeared. Evil child movies stopped and cuddly baby movies produced. Which then became cuddly teen movies. Kids became protected. Child abuse hysteria. Child protection gadgets. Cycle helmets. Behavioural changes – reduction in violent crime by teenagers, reduction on risk taking.
Key IT/innovation – wimax, social networks, wiki, IM, mobile device, texting

Things to remember when dealing with them in the workplace or at college:
They’re special – want to be treated as VIPs, and you need to co-recruit the parents. Parents are all over them, even in their 20s. Biggest problem to teachers is parents. 4% even attend their kid’s job interviews!
They’ve been sheltered – pso need to provide a supervised environment. They love counselling.
They’re conventional – which is a surprise to most of their boomer parents. 40 to 50% live with parents. Cell phone has become the world’s longest umbilical cord
They plan– don’t offer them a temporary job.
They’re team oriented – make them part of the group. Use technology to create communities.
They’re active in the community – be active yourself. They volunteer. For Gen X kids, community service was a punishment! They vote and take an interest in social issues.

I haven’t done justice to the talk in my brief notes, but it was interesting afterwards talking to delegates about which generation we fitted into, and whether we could recognise the generalisations made about them. For the most part we could. I am definitely a Boomer, and my kids definitely Millenials! He finished with a nice slide illustrating the high achieving nature of the Millenials:

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