Understanding the Next Generation

I recently had the privilege of hearing David Kinnaman speak. He’s the president of the Barna Group and the author of several books - his most recent, You Lost Me. As an older leader, I continue to feel the need to understand the emerging generation better. That’s David’s specialty!

If you and I believe that great leaders serve, it is impossible to do that well if we don’t understand those we wish to serve. David helped me see both the potential in the Mosaics – those born between 1984 and 2002 (some researchers refer to this group as the Millennials) and how different they are from my generation. Here’s some of what David’s learned after 350,000 interviews…

52% of the Mosaics have an interest in a career in science.

41% of this generation were born to single moms – this compares with 5% in 1960.

54% have started a business or want to – they are very entrepreneurial.

They are far more visually oriented than previous generations. Content is moving from Literacy to Visualcy. The typical American receives 34 GB of data/information a day – less than .1% is in the form of words! The average teenager consumes more than 10 hours of media per day!

“Email is for old people.” Texting is the current preferred channel and Twitter is emerging quickly as the mode of choice for direct communications. BTW: Lady GaGa has 20 million Twitter followers!

What do leaders do with this type information? I’m trying to figure it out myself. Here are four ideas I’m pursuing at this point.
Keep learning – Not just about the Mosaics. If you and I don’t make a conscious, purposeful decision to keep learning - followed by a plan of action, there’s no way we can keep up with the changes in the world.
Keep listening – When you’re in a meeting, specifically with younger people, monitor your behavior. How much talking are you doing vs. listening? I believe it is truer than ever: the old can learn from the young – if we’ll listen.
Be open – Different does not mean bad. The Mosaics are different. Get used to it, don’t try to change them, don’t assume they’re wrong and most importantly, don’t assume you’re right.
Find some young friends – How many young people (Mosaics) have you had a meal with in the last 30 days (your kids don’t count)? If you’ll buy dinner, they’ll eat with you. Ask great questions while you’re there.[GLS_Shield]


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