Book Review: Alliterative title generates generational talk

The following book review was printed in The Courier, November 18, 2009. The reviewer was Elaine VanderClute.

The subtitle of the book “Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization” by Dr. Ira S.Wolfe, “How to Manage the Unprecedented Convergence of the Wired, the Tired, and Technology in the Workplace,” is as clever as its alliterative title.  A closer look reveals that the geeks are wired, the geezers are tired and googlization is a fancy word for technology, but Wolfe’s prescriptions for success in the workplace are much more comprehensive than his titles suggest.

Wolfe tackles a phenomenon that many might not even realize exists: the convergence in the workplace of four generations with very different ideas of how to work, when to work, where to work and why to work.  First, he identifies these four generations. The Veterans, born before 1946, are sometimes known as the Silent or Greatest Generation. They remember Pearl Harbor, Mickey Mouse, the McCarthy Era and Joe DiMaggio.  Next up are the Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, whose memories are of the Cold War, civil rights demonstrations, American Bandstand and the Beatles. Generation X, or Baby Busters, born between 1965 and 1979, recall the Challenger disaster, the Cosby Show, Cabbage Patch dolls and Kurt Cobain.  Finally is Generation Y, or the Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000. Wolfe predicts that they will remember September 11, Facebook, Wikipedia and Bill Clinton.

Mix the Veterans, the Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y together and put them in the same work environment and there is the potential for some interesting results.  Wolfe stresses that knowing the differences about how the workers in each of these generational groups approach the workplace can put a positive spin on those results.  He is quick to point out however, that the defining characteristics in each group may be typical but are by no means universal.  Using himself as an example, Wolfe describes himself as a “Gen Y trapped in a Baby Boomer body.”

Readers might wonder why the convergence of these particular generations should be any different from say, the generations that worked together in the 1940s or 1950s.  One of the reasons is that in the past, it would have been rare to have people from four generations working side by side.

However, people today have a longer life expectancy and more Veterans and Baby Boomers are opting to put off retirement or go back to work after retirement.  Another reason, according to Wolfe, is technology, hence the “googlization” in his title.  In a particularly succinct take on what is happening in the workplace, Wolfe asserts that “technology is the air that young people breathe and it is beginning to leave more experienced workers gasping.”

Lest readers think that this means that Wolfe is minimizing the contribution that the older generations can make at work, the author makes it perfectly clear that workers from all four groups bring valuable assets to work and these should be recognized and cultivated by managers.  The trick he says, to approaching a multigenerational workforce, is to use the right management style for each generation:  a supporting style for the Veterans, an empowering style for Baby Boomers and older Gen Xs, a steering style for the younger Gen Xs and a building style for the youngest workers, the Gen Ys.

 ”Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization” focuses on the mix of generations in the business world, but the application to other parts of living is clear:  people would do well to take the time to learn what distinguishes the members of one generation from another.  As Ira Wolfe says, “Bridging the generational gap is like controlling traffic at a four-way stop sign.  To avoid collisions, drivers must give-and-take from each generation to keep the productivity flowing, creating a more cordial and hopefully collaborative environment.”

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