I have a shocking revelation, we don’t pick when we were born.
I’d like you to stop and think about something for a minute. What if the notion of distinct generations has become a convenient fiction? What if, as the result of dramatically changing global demographics, the accelerating pace and simplification of technology, and hyperconnectivity, we are being thrust into a post-generational world? It’s a tough idea to accept, isn’t it?
The Myth Of The Gap
Let’s come at that from a different vantage point. Answer this question; would you discriminate against someone based on his or her gender, race, national origin, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or the color of their skin? Of course not! Yet, discrimination based on generational categorization is rampant. Boomers routinely bash millennials and Gen Z. All that does is drive wedges of assumed bias into our organizations. Margret Mead, who first coined the term “Generation Gap,” came to dislike the way it was popular used precisely because of the divisive effect it had. According to Mead, “Instead of being presented with stereotypes by age, sex, color, class, or religion, children must have the opportunity to learn that within each range, some people are loathsome and some are delightful.”
The fact is that much of what defined generational behaviors in the past was built around distinct eras of technology, which once divided us since they moved so slowly that people born into different cohorts used very different technologies to experience and interact with the world. That’s changed. Behaviors are now built around the same technologies.
Grandmothers use skype and FaceTime on tablets and smartphones to communicate with their grandkids. We share diverse experiences on the common platform of the web. My kids, grandkids, and I will all be able to immerse ourselves into each others eras through virtual and augmented reality, allowing us all to share an intimate first-hand understanding of the forces and events that shaped and are shaping us across generational decades.
I know what you’re thinking, “No way! My unique generational experiences belong to my generation.” I’m not saying they don’t. But does that mean you, I, or anyone else is destined to be locked into a generational confine of behaviors?
So, what if instead of labeling a generation as strictly a birthright we used it to describe a set of common behaviors that can bring people of all ages and backgrounds together? Pie in the sky? I don’t think so. In fact, I’d like you to prove it to yourself by taking a quick survey that will show you just how Gen Z you are. Rank yourself against over one thousand respondents born between the ages of 18 to 70 (nearly all of the working age population) to see how your behaviors compare with perceived generational boundaries. You’ll get instant results that provide a ranking and a percentile score as well as a bit of feedback on how Gen Z you are. Up for the challenge? Click on the link below to take the survey. Try not to look ahead in the article and come back when you’re done.
How did you do? If you’re above the 50th percentile then you’re already adopting many of what are “considered” to be Millennial or Gen Z behaviors. If you fall under the 50th percentile then you’re simply choosing Boomer or Gen X behaviors that are more suitable to you.
But wait, doesn’t that mean that generations are still alive and thriving? No! And this is the shocking finding of the research. While you might expect that the over 50th percentile is younger and the under 50th percentile is older, the data actually supports a merging of generational behaviors rather than a generation gap.
In studying over 100,000 datapoints from respondents to a more extensive four-year long survey, for our book The Gen Z Effect, my co-author, Dan Keldsen, and I found that there is virtually no difference (less then a 10% spread) in the overall average ranking in these behaviors for what would be considered the age bands of Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials; the three cohorts that represent the overwhelming majority of the workforce. It’s an eye-opener because we so desperately want to believe in the sanctity of the generational myth.
So, while we will undoubtedly hold onto to generational thinking for some time, it is more anecdotal than accurate in describing how individuals actually behave. Or, to be blunt, if you’re using generational labels to make decisions about people expect to make some very bad decisions.
Are you still holding tight to your generational birthright? Are you stuck in a category because you’re proud to be a boomer/Gen Xr/millennial/Gen Z? Taking pride in a generational label or painting someone else with the same broad brush strokes is a convenient fiction. It’s simple and it’s mostly false; an unfounded belief that someone is defined by something they had no choice in.
>> Want to know more about Gen Z and the forces driving a post-generational world? Check out the short video below: