A Gen X Reviews Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization

I just read “GEEKS, GEEZERS and GOOGLIZATION” by Dr. Ira S. Wolfe. This was an interesting book in that it made you think about differences between the generations.  I think there are 2 key learning points from this book;

  • We need to treat people the way they want to be treated – not the way we want to be treated.  Recognize them as individuals – who have different learning, communication, etc. preferences and view points
  • The generations have different viewpoints about reality that can be in conflict if not recognized – they each have their advantages and disadvantages.

Without re-printing the book I’ll summarize here some information about the different generations I found valuable:

Veterans (born before 1946)

  • Performance Evalation: Don’t tell me anything if there isn’t a problem
  • Training Preference: Learns best in classrooms, lectures, experts
  • Likes organized, factual information
  • Rewards: tangible symbols of loyalty, commitment, and service including plaques and certificates

Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

  • Performance Evaluation: Tell me how I’m doing once a year – especially if it’s tied to a salary increase or a promotion.
  • Training Preference: Casual, training with participation
  • Communication: Face-to-Face or by phone, agendas are guidelines
  • While in the past they rebuffed authority now they respect and expect it.
  • Rewards: personal appreciation, promotion, recognition

Generation X (1965-1979)

  • Performance Evaluation: Prefer ongoing positive feedback
  • Training Preference: prefer immediate feedback, coaching
  • Communication: Face-to-Face or by phone, agendas are guidelines
  • Doesn’t respect hiearchial authority – wants interaction and participation, respects competency
  • Rewards: Free time, upgraded resources, opportunites for development

Generation Y (1980-2000)

  • Performance Evaluation:  desires frequent and instant feedback
  • Training Preference: Participative, more active learning
  • Rejects top-down authority – will leave if challenged by authority driven culture
  • Rewards: awards, certificates, tangible evidence of credibility

Being a Gen-X-er myself I found reading this interesting – as I sometimes have problems fitting into a corporate culture.  As I read some items it resonated with me – the need for more frequent and actionable feedback, the desire for more work-life balance, the challenge with bureacracy, etc.   I find myself, as I interact with web technologies,  understanding more how the Gen-Y thinks and feels -as concept of checking facebook, twitter, etc. doesn’t seem that much different than taking personal phone calls at work. 

One easy way to have conflict is to keep assuming the other person has the same values and expectations as yourself –  and choose not to follow those.  We assume they are in the wrong – and they often assume the same.  We need to step back and verify if we have the same expectations, the same values – to avoid meaningless conflict.  We aren’t the same in all areas – and recognizing that (even if we don’t agree) can help make for a more productive and enjoyable workspace. There is much more to this book than just generational differences- as it brings out personality styles, where we are in a careers, in order to help manage people.  Again I think the point is a one-size-fits all approach doesn’t work anymore – as people are just too different. 

The world keeps changing faster and faster – with technology becoming disruptive.  This technology affects how we interact with each other – e-mail vs. phone, IM vs. phone, social networking, text messages, etc. (How many of you are texting far more today than you were before – to the point you don’t call people anymore).  I wonder if the affect of technology has a way of pushing the “older” generations toward the “newer” generations (albiet with some resistance).


I also just realized something fascinating about the generation Y in terms of start up businesses.  There are a raft of “Web 2.0″ companies popping up – many of which don’t seem to have a business model (i.e. how will they ever make money?).  One of the common values of this Generation is wanting to make a difference – not just make money.  So to them (which drives this Gen-X’er crazy) they may not care if they’re making money – as long as they’re making a difference.  Additionally this generation has generous support from their parents (helicopter parents)- so their perceived risk levels are lower (if you’re living at home you don’t have a lot of expenses).

Thanks to Andrew at A&L Enterprises Tech Line for this great review.

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