Green the new American Dream?

This post from Matt over at TheWyze is interesting:

‘Green’ is to Gen Y what ‘Peace’ was to Gen X

He does seem to confuse the attitude of [Boom] with [X], since Boomers were the ones protesting for peace for so many years. Gen X didn’t protest for (or against) anything.

But there is another aspect to the green attitude of [Mill] which is their tendency towards group think. Millennials are excellent at teamwork and collectivism, but they are also subject to over-simplifying problems. In this way they are very similar to the [GI] who overcame the Axis in WWII. That generation also had a severe case of group think which became more obvious after the war when they put together the shallow “American Dream” which their Boomer kids later rebelled against.

I believe “green” will be held by the Millennials (aka Gen Y) in the same way as the American Dream was held by the GI’s: as a shallow ideal that their kids will eventually rebel against. For example, I can see that 30 years from now everyone will have a “carbon counter” on their phone, house, whatever, and they will measure their status by the number on that device. But, as their kids will probably point out, they won’t be any more connected to mother nature. And so the cycle continues.

This recent article about a Volvo experiment with “CO2 pedometers” is a forerunner to this concept. I picture CO2 emission counters being used in daily life, either on a cell phone or attached to your house/car/children. Your CO2 count will be a measure of your social conscience just like a well-manicured lawn was back in the 1950’s. But, just like those 50’s ideals, it will be a thin veneer that will eventually be challenged by the next Prophet generation (the kids of the Millennials). I can hear them saying, “Okay, Mom, your carbon count is tiny but where is your connection to Mother Earth? When is the last time you actually rolled in the dirt?”). The more things change…

Will We Miss the Boomer Generation Managers?

I found an interesting article about the differences between Baby Boomers (born 1943-1960) and Gen X’ers (born 1961-1981) as managers. It is written by Bob Filipczak, who is a Gen X’er.

My favorite quote:

The attitude that “organizations are interchangeable” is beginning to evolve into “employees are interchangeable, and thereby disposable.” If you thought corporations were ruthless during the 80s and 90s, you may be unpleasantly surprised by organizations under the stewardship of Generation X management.

5 Ways to Sell to Baby Boomers

Over at my other blog I talk about how to sell into businesses (my day job). In this series of posts I will describe the best strategies you can use to sell to the various generations.

Each generation has a unique character, and members of those generations have common attributes. Although it is impossible to make specific claims about each individual in a generation (since they span 20 years or more) generational theory is useful in understanding how members of a generation will likely act in a sales situation. It is also very useful when assessing the character of an organization, since when members of a generation work together they often exhibit even stronger generational qualities.

The Boomer Generation, born 1943-1960, is well-known for their cultural influence in the US. They were the children born after WWII during the American High, a period of plenty where life was stable and the future looked bright. In their youth they rebelled against the establishment and tore down many of the institutions that raised them. During their midlife, in the 1980’s and 90’s, they fought bitter ideological battles for the hearts and minds of the people. And now, as they move into elderhood, their character is shifting again.

Boomers in elderhood are typically quite set in their ways, and their strong ideology makes it difficult to sway their opinions. They often want to deliberate about any decisions and revel in the discussion more than the outcome, although they expect things to go their way. They often will make decisions based purely on ideology, rather than the practical or pragmatic. They judge younger generations (especially Generation X, born 1961-1981) as self-centered and cynical.
Ideals and ideas are both important to Boomers and they often will have strong philosophical views and opinions. They are willing, and often enjoy, engaging in lively debate, but it is difficult to change their minds about their beliefs.

5 things to know for selling to Baby Boomers:

  1. If they are the decision makers (often the case) then you need to understand their ideal state. You are unlikely to talk them out of those ideals, but if you can convince them you will help them towards this ideal then you are on the right track. Boomers are often visionaries (or believe that they are) and if you can determine how to align yourself with their vision you will have a strong ally.
  2. They prefer face-to-face contact and can be overwhelmed when too much information is presented too quickly, especially if it is shallow and glosses over the deeper meaning. Boomers prefer to concentrate on a single topic and understand it fully before moving on, so being willing to take questions during a presentation or demo is critical for Boomers. Even if you end up on a tangent you may satisfy the prospect that you are willing to really understand their needs in depth.
  3. If they have a strong emotional reaction (for or against) to material they are willing to read and research in detail. This is good if they agree with your pitch, but a bummer if they don’t. White Papers, technical manuals, analyst reports and other detailed information (especially from a well-known and trusted source) can be very effective with Baby Booomers.
  4. They are often more loyal to brands and individuals than younger generations. Although Baby Boomers broke down most of the institutions of their elders they were still raised to believe that organizations can be trusted, and in their elderhood they hope that this can happen once again. If Baby Boomers are the decision makers and you perform well after your first sales effort, you be well set up for subsequent sales.
  5. They are getting close to what will be their “final act” in the business world and many are concerned about leaving a legacy. Although many are more focused on just ensuring their retirement in these difficult economic times, some, especially the leaders of organizations, know that how they act now will be how they are remembered. If you can offer the opportunity for them to make a difference, to “Change the World”, you may have strong allies.

Some people believe these characteristics are really about age rather than generation. Although the character of generations shift as they age, they don’t act like the cohort that came before (or after) them at the same age. For example, the GI Generation (born 1901-1924) acted nothing like the Baby Boomers when they were entering elderhood in the 1960’s and 70’s. They were not, for the most part, philosophers or deep thinkers and they were proud of the strong society they had created. Each generation has a unique character at each age and understanding that character can help you sell.

Look for further posts on each living generation in the coming weeks. If you would like to learn more about how to sell to generations, please sign up for notification of my upcoming e-book on the topic “Selling to Generations”.

Directions for Generation X

In Strauss and Howe’s book “The Fourth Turning” the describe the roles of each generation during the various “Turnings“.  At the end of the book there are “scripts” for each of the generation in the Crisis (aka “Fourth Turning”) that represents the next 10-15 years in American history. Each script describes how the generation in question should act for a positive outcome from the Crisis. I already posted the script for the Millennial Generation (born 1982-200?) a few days ago. The script for Generation X (born 1961-1981)  is shown below (emphasis and links mine). “Nomad” refers to the archetype of Generation X.

Survival skills are what a society needs most in a Fourth Turning, and those are precisely what the most criticized archetype—the Nomad—possesses in abundance. Through the natural corrective force of the saeculum, the Nomad was raised to excel in exactly those skills that history will require from him in midlife at a time of real public danger. His challenge will be to stop dispersing these skills for scattered purposes and start gathering them for one larger purpose. Through the Unraveling, the Nomad has been able to withdraw from civic life, but come the Crisis he cannot. It will be his duty to ensure that whatever choices society makes will work as intended. In public life, the Nomad must cut through the paralytic residue once built by his shadow, the old Artist. In private life, he must rebuild the family and community rituals once discarded by the old Artist. As he does this, the Nomad will nurture the new child Artist.
The Fourth Turning will find other generations with lives either mostly in the past or mostly in the future, but it will catch X’ers in “prime time,” right at the midpoint of their adult years. They must step forward as the saeculum’s repair generation, the one stuck with fixing the messes and cleaning up the debris left by others. Every tool X’ers acquired during a hardened childhood and individualist youth will be put to maximum test. If X’ers apply these tools for community purpose, they will become antidotes to pathologies remembered from their own Awakening-era childhood— from divorce and latchkeys to public debt and cultural decay.
The X’ers gravest Fourth Tuning duty will be their society’s most important pre-seasonal task: to ensure that there can indeed be a new High, a new golden age of hope and prosperity. For the Crisis to end well, X’ers must keep Boomers from wreaking needless destruction and Millennials from marching too mindlessly under their elders’ banner. They will not find it easy to restrain an older generation that will consider itself far wiser than they, and a younger one that will consider itself more deserving. For this, X’ers will require a keen eye, a deft touch, and a rejection of the wild risk taking associated with their youth.
From now through the end of the Fourth Turning, X’ers will constantly rise in power. From 1998 until around the Crisis climax, they will be America’s largest potential generational voting block. As the years pass, their civic contributions will become increasingly essential to their nation’s survival. They will have to vote more and participate more, if they want to contain the Boomers’ zealotry. They will have that chance. Their own elected officials will surge into Congress as the Crisis catalyzes, eclipse Boomers around its climax, and totally dominate them by the time it resolves.
As they go one-on-one with history, X’ers should remember that history is counting on them to do whatever hard jobs may be necessary. If X’ers play their script weakly, old Boomers could wreak a horrible apocalypse, and X’ers demagogues could impose a mind-numbing authoritarianism—or both. If X’ers play their script cleverly but safely, however, a new golden age will be their hard-won reward. As they age, X’ers should remember Hemingway’s words: “Old men do not grow wise. They grow careful.”

This was written in 1997 and I am personally amazed at how true it holds today. Us X’ers have a tough and thankless job ahead of us (just like our tough and thankless childhood/young adulthood). But perhaps knowing how critical our role is in this transition will bolster our morale.

6 Reasons You Should Listen to Boomers (even if they drive you crazy)

Do Baby Boomers drive you crazy? Here’s 6 reasons you should listen to them anyway.

Baby Boomers (born 1943-1961) are a fairly opinionated and outspoken bunch. I read somewhere in reference to the Boomer generation “Never has a generation said more and done less than the Baby Boomers”. As they enter Elderhood (age 63 – 85) they are beginning to feel the need to express their opinions more vehemently, knowing that they have precious little time left to do so. Although they often drive Gen X’ers (1961-1981) and Millennials (born 1982-200?) with all their talk, there are some reasons why we should consider listening to them.

  1. Some of them actually know what they are talking about. The plethora of opinions coming from Boomers almost guarantees that at least some of them are right. Figuring out which ones can be an onerous task, but it is still important to not dismiss them all.
  2. They are, for younger Gen X’ers and older Millennials, our parents. Gen X’ers may not see this as much of a qualification (since we were largely ignored in our childhood), but your parents probably know you better than most (doesn’t that drive you nuts?).
  3. They were not the only ones responsible for our current crisis. It’s easy to blame older generations for your problems – the Boomers certainly did this with the GI Generation (born 1901-1924) in the back in the 1960’s. Although the excess of the Boomers (and yes, X’ers) in the 90’s and 00’s is seen as the cause of our current problems, the issue goes back much further. Truth be told, it is probably what Tom Brokaw called the “Greatest Generation” (The GI’s) that should shoulder much of the blame for our current problems. They are the ones that built the ideal of the “American Dream” with ticky-tacky houses in the ‘burbs, superhighways, mass agribusiness and a culture of consumerism. They may have not been responsible for the extremes, but they set the ball rolling. The Boomers sure got that right.
  4. They want to leave their mark. Although this can be frustrating at times (see my previous post for the problems related to leaving a legacy) it means they are uniquely motivated to take action at this time in their lives. Many Boomers are tired of talking and want to DO something.
  5. They often want to mentor younger generations. Part of this relates to the Boomers moving into Elderhood, but it is also the nature of the style of this generation. They like to be leaders, and leaders need followers. I have personally found that Boomers make great mentors. Sometimes you may need to stroke their egos, but they have a lot of valuable life experience to give.
  6. They have fond memories of their youth. The Silent Generation (born 1925-1942) were “old” right from the start, never having much of a chance to shake things up in their youth. Generation X was latch-keyed from an early age and had a tough time as young adults. But Boomers were cherished as children and threw a wild party in their young adulthood. Let them tell you some stories, you might learn a thing or two.

It pains an X’er like me to admit: They may have talked about doing more than they actually did, but they still are great teachers. Lend them an ear and you might be surprised at what you find out.