Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Sizemore sizes up ‘Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization’ in HS Dent Forecast

In one of those “this made by day” moments, a friend of mine forwarded a review of my book Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization.  The review was written by Charles Sizemore at HS Dent and published in the March 2010 edition of the HS Dent Forecast. Not only was I pleased – no, ecstatic – over the author’s insight and comments, it was especially rewarding because it was completely unsolicited and unanticipated.

The book review in its entirety is posted below.

“What is a generation?” asks Ira Wolfe in his new book Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization. “A generation is a group of people who are programmed by events they share in history while growing up… a common set of memories, expectations, and values based on headlines and heroes, music and mood, parenting style, and education systems.”

I would agree with this definition, and would add that it ties in with the concept of generation gap. Parents (and sometimes even older siblings) often do not “get” their kids. They don’t understand their vocabulary. They don’t understand what motivates them. And they absolutely, for the life of them, cannot understand why a pieced eyebrow is cool. (Who am I to criticize…in my childhood, coolness was defined by acid-washed jeans that were tightly rolled around the ankles and permed hair and makeup on male rock stars. Go figure.)

Mr. Wolfe’s book is an interesting study on the relationships between the generations in the workplace. It’s very similar in substance to the generational work done by William Strauss and Neil Howe (Generations, The 4th Turning, Millennials Rising), but it’s much less academic and, frankly, quite a bit easier to digest. Corporate executives who find themselves managing a multigenerational workforce should find the book quite valuable, as should anyone struggling to understand the generation gap in their own home, for that matter.

Wolfe speaks of the generations as if they were single members of a large family. At this stage in their careers, the Baby Boomer managers are “parents,” while the Echo Boomer employees are “kids.” Generation X, stuck in the middle as always, is analogous to an unloved older stepchild, cut off from the nurturing love fest between the Boomers and Echo Boomers.

Of Generation X, Wolfe writes “Coming of age in the shadow of the Baby Boomers virtually ensured that this generation would be overlooked and ignored; like Great Britain’s Prince Charles, they are the workplace ‘heirs apparent,’ waiting endlessly and impatiently to assume leadership.”

And like the unfortunate Prince Charles, their waiting has no end in sight. Gen X is hitting a “gray ceiling,” as the incumbent Boomers refuse to retire and make room at the top. But while Gen X waits for its chance to take the reins, Gen Y is slowly coming up behind them. Given the symbiotic relationship between the Boomers and their “Mini Me,” the Echo Boomers, Gen X is right to worry about being leapfrogged.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Gen X is a very entrepreneurial generation; with the Baby Boomer generation acting as an 80-million-person roadblock to their career advancement, it is understandable that Gen Xers believe that their best chance to excel is through starting their own businesses. Of course, Gen X also watched their parents and older brothers suffer through the layoffs and restructurings of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Seeing quality professionals lose their jobs through no fault of their own made Generation X grow up a little cynical and mistrusting of large companies.

Wolfe also has a secondary theory for Generation X’s independence and somewhat prickly demeanor. While the Echo Boomers were the “trophy kids” who were coddled from birth by their well-intentioned soccer moms who slathered them in antibacterial hand wash every time they left the house, Gen X was the “latch-key kid” generation. They had to fend for themselves at a young age. They also weren’t required by law to wear a helmet and knee pads every time they rode their bike to school, nor were they required to sit in a car kiddy seat until puberty. In short, they weren’t smothered by their mothers (or by the “nanny state”), and they were allowed to be kids — little Huck Finns and Tom Sawyers who got into a lot of trouble but ended up stronger for it.

Don’t underestimate this personality characteristic; you don’t realize how valuable it is until you see the alternative: the neediness of the Echo Boomers (also called the “Millennials” and “Gen Y”). In smothering their children with things like “My kid is an honors student” bumper stickers, the Baby Boomers have created a codependent monster in the Echo Boomers they raised. Echo Boomers require constant attention and affirmation in the workforce. They’re emotional and oversensitive. And they don’t understand why it’s not ok to wear an eyebrow piercing into a place of business if you want to be taken seriously or that it’s rude to have your face buried in a text message when someone is talking to you. (This is my personal pet peeve. Though she is now a married professional in her mid-20s and generally has good manners, my Echo Boomer kid sister has the annoying habit of doing the “Blackberry prayer” when I’m trying to talk to her. Her husband does it too. It’s maddening.)

Wolfe does an excellent job of describing the frustrations felt by managers today:

At school, teachers accentuate the positive. Kids no longer fear the bad report card — teachers do. This generation was treated so delicately that many schoolteachers stopped grading papers and tests in harsh-looking red ink to avoid bruising the child’s precious self-esteem. Managers in turn must now tread lightly when making even the most benign critique…

How did these kids get this way? For many Millennials, few “accomplishments” didn’t rate some type of acknowledgement. In games, it was common for everyone to receive a trophy — win or lose — thus the name “trophy kids…” The lesson shifted from “second place is the first place for losers” to “everyone who plays is a winner.”

This generational tension is a bit ironic. While many managers and most of the media targets the kids, the blame might fall squarely on the very people doing the loudest complaining — doting parents, teachers and coaches. After all, the grumbling Baby Boomer managers are the same indulgent parents who raised the millennial generation after starting families late in life or vowing not to make the same mistake twice with children from second and third marriages.

Wolfe, a graying Baby Boomer, is certainly no crotchety old man wagging his finger at “kids these days.” Quite to the contrary. (If anything, it is me, your younger Gen X writer who fits that description.) Wolfe sees a lot of untapped potential in this young generation. What I might consider a short attention span, an inability to focus, and insufficient attention to detail, Wolfe calls “hyperalertness,” defined here as an “advanced form of mental flexibility.” I would consider instant messaging three friends while simultaneously uploading photos to Facebook, blogging about rock bands, playing Second Life, and listening to an iPod to be a colossal waste of time of absolutely no economic value. I certainly wouldn’t call it “multitasking.” But I guess that makes me old school.

At any rate, Mr. Wolfe’s objective is not to pass judgment. His objective is to help managers better understand those under their control. And on this front, Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization is a useful too. I’d recommend this book to anyone in a position of authority over a multigenerational workforce.

Charles Sizemore, CFA

This book review was originally published in the March 2010 edition of the HS Dent Forecast.

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Geeks, Geezers, & Googlization Author Interviewed on Public Radio

 

Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization author Ira S. Wolfe was interviewed by Donald Roeck, host of Delmarva Today, on Public Radio Delmarva -WSDL 90.7 and WSCL 89.5. The interview aired on February 5, 2010. 

Duration 30:08

To listen to more interview by Ira, click here.

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Retiring Baby Boomers Hand Big Problem to Gen X & Y

Is it any wonder why resentment is building between the Baby Boomers and younger generations, Gen X and Gen Y?

The following is an excerpt from a “state of emergency” speech delivered by Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) last week:

One state retiree, 49 years old, paid, over the course of his entire career, a total of $124,000 towards his retirement pension and health benefits. What will we pay him? $3.3 million in pension payments over his life and nearly $500,000 for health care benefits — a total of $3.8m on a $120,000 investment.

A retired teacher paid $62,000 towards her pension and nothing, yes nothing, for full family medical, dental and vision coverage over her entire career. What will we pay her? $1.4 million in pension benefits and another $215,000 in health care benefit premiums over her lifetime.

How many times will this scenario be repeated over the next decade as Baby Boomers retire?  And let’s not forget this little detail… the pension and medical benefit kitty that is supposed to pay these people.  Well it’s short just a few dollars – like $90 billion. To even keep up with annual payments, residents of New Jersey would have to pay $7 billion per year.

So it seems like we’ve got a problem that only Gen X and Gen Y can solve.  If only we had any jobs for them.

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Non-Profits Will Profit from Facebook (and other social media)

What business hasn’t been forced to cut back and still do more to promote their business?  Non-profits have been particularly hard hit and that makes using social media to connect with donors, volunteers, and the community a near-perfect solution.  Yes, it takes some time but the entry cost is almost nothing and the potential is unlimited.  And once you get started, I can almost guarantee you that people passionate about your cause will generate passionate conversation to promote your cause and value. 

This past Wednesday I had a great day at Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore Resource Day.  The seminar was a sell-out and the enthusiasm in the room was palpable.  It’s so rewarding to see people passionate about what they do. 

Listen to what just a few participants had to say about the workshop “Link Me, Tweet Me, Friend Me” and how they plan to use social media.

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What’s the Difference between a Geek and a Geezer?

I received this as a blonde joke but thought it was more apropos as the ultimate geek and geezer conversation!

During a recent password audit, it was found that one of the geezer employees was using the following password:

          MickeyMinniePlutoHueyLouieDeweyDonaldGoofySacramento

When a geek co-worker asked why such a long password, she said:

 ”I was told that it had to be at least 8 characters long and include at least one capital………”

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Some sage advice for all generations

“There are those who work all day. Those who dream all day. And those who spend an hour dreaming before setting to work to fulfill those dreams. Go into the third category because there’s virtually no competition.” Steven J Ross

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Renaissance Man

I’ve been called a lot of things in my life but never The Renaissance Man.  But “Ira S Wolfe: A Renaissance Man” was the frontpage headline in our local paper (The Courier) this week.  After reading the article,  I’ll accept the new title – it seems to fit and I hope I’ll represent it well. :-)

In the same edition, my Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization book was reviewed.  I’ll be posting the review in the next few days.

Click here to read The Renaissance Man article.

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The birds and bees meets the digital age!

Apparently a parent is never too old to discuss the birds and the bees with his/her children. I just received this really cute joke by email from my 86 y/o mother!  How many 86 year olds do you know who would even understand this joke…no less could send it to friends and family by email?  The Internet can connect all people regardless of age if only we’d let it.

How was I born?

A little boy goes to his father and asks ‘Daddy, how was I born?’ 

The father answers, ‘Well, son, I guess one day you will need to find out anyway!  Your Mom and I first got together in a chat room on Yahoo.  Then I set up a date via e-mail with your Mom and we met at a cyber-cafe.  We sneaked into a secluded room, and googled each other.  There your mother agreed to a download from my hard drive.  As soon as I was ready to upload, we discovered that neither one of us had used a firewall, and since it was too late to hit the delete button, nine months later a little Pop-Up appeared that said: 

Scroll down…You’ll love this ….

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“You’ve Got Male!”

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Wor-Wic Adds Social Media, Facebook, and Managing Generations to Fall Schedule

If you live on the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland, you’ll want to register today for these new courses just added to the fall schedule at Wor-Wic Community College. (If you live outside the region, contact Ira S Wolfe about on-site or web-based classes.)

When Boomers and Young Workers Collide: Capitalizing on Generational Strengths

Boomers are lingering in the workplace. Gen Xers are growing impatient waiting to ascend into leadership. Gen Ys are knocking at HR’s door in record numbers and technology is transforming mode and pace of communication. Four generations co-mingle in the workplace. Different managerial approaches and working styles are clashing. Discover how to capitalize on each generation’s strengths and find common ground. Explore generational trends that are changing the way employers do business.

COURSE 2130: Wed.; Oct. 7-Nov. 11 (except Oct. 14); 5 sessions; 8:30-11:30 a.m.; Tuition $160; Fee $40; Wor-Wic Campus/WDC304; Ira Wolfe.

 

Social Media 101: Link Me, Tweet Me, Nudge Me

Social media provides business owners with the ability to connect with customers, suppliers, and partners in an innovative fashion. Discover how other successful businesses are utilizing social media technologies like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, blogs, and more to market their services and provide timely information to their customers. Develop a best practice strategy to utilize social media technologies within your own organization.

COURSE 2111: Thurs.; Oct. 1 & 8; 2 sessions; 6:309:30 p.m.; Tuition $42; Wor-Wic Campus/WDC203; Ira Wolfe.

 

Marketing Your Business: Using Facebook

Should your business be on Facebook? Find out why this trend isn’t just for college students. Discover how you can stay competitive in today’s business climate by integrating free social media networking into your marketing, sales, and recruiting strategies. Facebook with more than 100 million subscribers is changing the way businesses search for customers and employees, brand products and companies, provide support, and build loyalty. Find out how other businesses are using Facebook and how you can create a customized professional Facebook presence for your organization. Identify the benefits and risks associated with using online communities and develop an effective business strategy. Create business profiles, pages, and groups and learn how to integrate videos, and other Web 2.0 applications, like Twitter, with your Facebook page. Discover how to direct people back to your blog and web page, add fans, and create a buzz about your product or service.

COURSE 2205: Sat.; Oct. 17-31; 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

COURSE 2206: Wed.; Oct. 21-Nov. 4; 6:30-9:30 p.m.

Both sessions will meet for 3 sessions; Tuition $59; Fee $10; Wor-Wic Campus/WDC308; Ira Wolfe.

 

Questions?  Call (410) 334-2815 or go to www.worwic.edu

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Generational Peace on the homefront, Clashes in the workplace

A Pew Research Center study earlier this summer found that two-thirds of Americans 16 and older saw an age divide but they didn’t believe it caused a lot of problems in their families or society. The generational squabble, the report…states, “is a much more subdued affair than the one that raged in the 1960s.”
 
That may be true at home and in the community but it seems to be a different story in the workplace. 
Resentment seems to be growing between Generation X and their predecessors, the Baby Boomers, and their successors, the Millennials.  In fact, getting squeezed between the Boomers who won’t get out of their way and ambitious, impatient, and tech savvy Millennials is a growing problem.   Delayed retirements due to the Great Recession and a need to retain experienced workers longer has created a an impenetrable Gray Ceiling for Gen Xers waiting and wanting to move up into more senior positions and leadership roles.   And eager to assume more responsbility and advance quickly, the Millennials en masse are beginning to leapfrog the Gen Xers who have been biding their time for over a decade.
 
In my experience with clients and speaking to audiences across the country, the parent-child bond may be gentler and kinder than it was in 1969 but the workplace chasm is widening and growing deeper as resentment between Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y increases.
 
What is your experience?  Is the resentment real?  Are generational conflicts affecting productivity and morale in your workplace?
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