The Pew Research Center conducted a massive generational study in 2010 on how the American Millennial Generation (Millennials, b. 1982 – 2002) is reshaping the nation via its trends.*
It’s easy to see from Pew’s research that each generation has a ‘personality’ based upon its trends and that there are differences between the generations. Hopefully, the Pew study can help the generations understand each other; an understanding that would lead to healthier relationships.
Here’s a tidbit from the study: Each generation has a self-identity. Below are the top five answers for the Millennial Generation in response to the identity question: What makes your generation unique?
1. Technology use (24%)
2. Music/Pop culture (11%)
3. Liberal/tolerant (7%)
4. Smarter (6%)
5. Clothes (5%)
In contrast, the number one (#1) answer for Baby Boomers (Boomers) for this same question was work ethic (17%). Extending the research to practice at work, it’s easy to see that Boomers and Millennials have problems working together – now that Millennials are in the workplace and working for, working over or working with Boomers.
However, the focus of this article is not on practice at work, but elsewhere; i.e., the creation of shared meaning and social reality between and among Millennials and Boomers.
Below are two (2) propositions upon which to think about how generations live, work, think, feel and act together, meaningfully.
1) Generational trends are over-arched by one or more higher-order trends which can be called super-trends. A super-trend is a trend of trends. One type of generational super-trend connotes how each generation creates meaning in life; a foundation concept in social science as well as human communication theory.
2) Creating meaning in life is both an intra- and interpersonal process. It happens within and without…overtime… and is co-constructed by reality or WIGO (what is going on) with everyone and everything involved.
We can pinpoint the super-trend of meaning for the Millennials with a one-word description. Also, we can contrast and compare one-word descriptions for prior generations which will add light to the process of creating shared meaning and social reality between and among Millennials and Boomers.
One-word Descriptions for the Super-trend of Meaning by Generation:©
1) Silent Generation: Nationalization
2) Baby Boomer Generation: Re-creation
3) Generation X: Restoration
4) Millennial Generation: Globalization
The Millennials are creating shared meaning and social reality at a time of not only great globalization (which they seem to be handling well), but also when the nation lacks alignment in policy and practice across major facets of government and industry (which the Millennials seem to be ignoring or about which they seem disengaged).
Ponder the following: No other generation of the current living generations has had to face a challenge as chaotic as the expansion of globalization and the lack of national alignment. Their challenge is ‘different in kind.’
Up Next: Millennials & Boomers: Creating Shared Meaning & Social Reality in the 21st Century / Part 2 of 2: Creating Shared Meaning in A ‘Different In Kind’ Social Reality.
* The Millennial Generation: Confident. Connected. Open to change. (Millennials. Portrait of Generation Next, Pew Research Center, 2010).
©Treat Consulting, 2013
Organizational communication maven by day. Food, wine and beer buff by night. World traveler. Entrepreneurial spirit. Contact Eroca Gabriel, a former Fortune 100 ‘people and culture’ consultant, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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