Posted by: heledd42 | July 14, 2010

Kids: over-nurtured, under-creative

Headline News by MrsInman

As a Generation Y, I’m actually quite surprised at the lack of creativity amongst my peers. You could argue that, hey, we’re under 30, with many of us just leaving university; what could we have possibly achieved as yet?

Let’s look at the other generations, shall we? Einstein came up with his theory of relativity when he was 26; Darwin had developed his theory of evolution before he was 30; Martin Luther King Jr became a civil rights activist, leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott when he was 26; Bill Gates founded Microsoft when he was 20; Tim Berners-Lee proposed his concept of hypertext (which led to the invention of the internet) when he was 25; The ‘Google Guys’, Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded their company when they were 28 and 25, respectively. The list goes on.

Ok, so Generation Y has Mark Zuckerberg, inventor of online community mammoth, Facebook, but that’s it, really. So, what’s going on?

In 1958, Professor E. Paul Torrance designed a series of tasks to test for creativity in children. He also discovered that, like IQ, ‘CQ’ has been rising steadily in children since then. Until the 1990s, where it started to decline and is declining still. This worrying fall in creativity has been blamed on the over-structuring of activities and the prevention of allowing children to fail at school, thus inhibiting opportunities for kids to experiment and learn things for themselves. This over-nurturing of our young is smothering their creative potential, and is terrible news for businesses, which rely on innovation to grow.

Will Generation Y be the first generation (of potentially many) to have few world-changing innovators? Unless parents, schools and government trust their children to work things out for themselves and encourage creative thought, then we may well be building a world where people are too risk-averse to innovate.

Posted by: heledd42 | July 12, 2010

The Have-Not Generation

debt illustration by Kath Walker Illustration

Generation Y was brought up being promised everything, but may well end up with nothing.

We were brought up in a world of cheap credit, where spending money you didn’t have was encouraged. Generation Y as a result is criticised for being a frivolous spend thrifts with their multiple maxed out credit cards, but we didn’t really mind: debt had lost its stigma, because everyone was doing it. Besides, we were told that if we got ourselves into even more debt by going to university, we would be able to secure a job so that we could live a life, content in the black.

But those promised jobs have evaporated. Today, graduate unemployment is 14% (well above the UK average of 8%), with 69 applicants to every graduate post. On top of that, over three quarters of graduate employers are no longer accepting applicants with a 2.2 or less, which cuts out 40% of graduates. This is not good news for a cohort, which currently has just student debts of £30,000.

Right now, however, this doesn’t seem to faze many of us. A recent report by RetailForward and PricewaterhouseCoopers revealed that the rebuilding of the economy is primarily reliant on the continued spending of Generations X and Y, as Boomers are not spending; rather they are saving for their impending retirement. Most of Generation X has established careers and is spending to support growing families, but fritter-friendly Generation Y hasn’t even made it to the first rung.

That the growth of the economy relies on the increasing debt of an unemployed generation spells big, big trouble for not only Generation Y, but to the economy as a whole. What happens when the banks catch up with us, when everyone realises that the economy is being powered by money which doesn’t exist? I think we know what will happen. In the pursuit to cut costs, businesses and governments around the world have established the foundations for a repeat of the Great Recession. And it will be at the expense of Generation Y.

Posted by: heledd42 | February 24, 2010

Generation Y: Doing the Impossible for the Ungrateful?

banksy - raining the wrong way by anthonyturducken

There’s been a lot in the news recently about UK’s PM, Gordon Brown, being accused of bullying his staff at No. 10 Downing Street. Not only this, but a number of my Generation X and Y friends are also having difficulties with their managers, suffering under the pressure to create more value in less time, with less money and less support.

A Gen Y friend encapsulated the feeling by quoting Mother Theresa: ‘we the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful’.

The recession is causing a lot of highly stressed leaders to take out the strain on their employees. A recent report suggests that, more than the other generations, a greater proportion of employed Generation Y is thinking of leaving its current employment. Being at the bottom of the corporate pile, many young workers are suffering. Desperate to create value (the willing), they are starting not to trust their superiors (led by the unknowing), and are feeling overworked (doing the impossible) and undervalued or even bullied (for the ungrateful). This kind of environment damages morale, which inevitably impacts productivity, innovation and loyalty.

In order to combat the predicted mass exodus of the young, which is almost guaranteed if their poor treatment continues, leaders need to do a few things. First, become ‘knowing’, to demonstrate to the ‘willing’ (Gen Y) that they can be trusted, by being open and admitting mistakes, as well as celebrating achievements. Second, help their young employees structure and prioritise their work so that they feel that ‘doing the impossible’ can be achieved. And finally, show gratitude. A simple ‘thank you’ can make all the difference between a hard-working loyal employee and a disgruntled worker walking out the door.

So, as a leader, the next time you engage with your employees, consider these questions: are they willing? Are you knowing? Are they doing the impossible? And, most importantly, are you grateful?

Posted by: heledd42 | February 2, 2010

Gen Y, Gays and the Pope

2007 - Gay Pride Parade -  Priest by cooldogphotos

If you live in the UK and you’ve been reading or watching the news, you may know that the Pope is coming to town. But rather than visiting to provide warm encouragement to his devoted fellow Catholics in this difficult time, he is coming to complain about our equal rights law, which will make it illegal for religions to refuse to hire openly gay men. He claims that the law strips religions of their freedom to choose who they hire.

A recent Pew study revealed that US Generation Y (and it will be similar in the UK), are the most progressive and liberal of all the living generations, being the most approving of once controversial subjects, such as inter-racial relationships. At the same time, another study suggests that Generation Y is the most ‘God-apathetic’ (two thirds of UK teens don’t believe in a God). However, particularly many of those who are suffering at the cruel hands of unemployment are searching for meaning and looking to religion to fill that hole, and many believe that Generation Y, rather than rejecting religion, are redefining what it means to them.

Now, with the Pope making – in the name of religion of course – the effort to come all the way to Britain in order to reprimand our government for protecting the fundamental human rights of all its citizens, do you think for a second that Generation Y is going to be impressed by this? For a religion which is struggling to recruit youth, this action by the Pope will go down like a lead balloon and alienate an entire generation of young people at a time when they most need meaning and guidance.

Faith is supposed to be about acceptance and peace, not about tyranny and narrow-mindedness. Isn’t it?

Posted by: heledd42 | January 28, 2010

Why the iPad won’t work for Gen Y

Bad Apple by C-Monster

What’s worse than finding half a maggot in your Apple? Not being able to multi-task on the iPad.

The Apple iPad, which was launched this week, is beautiful, light and, at first glance, the type of technology that Generation Y would covet, being as it is the epitome of technology blending. You can create documents, surf the web, listen to music, share photos, watch videos, read books, and play games. Particularly E-Book readers and handheld gaming devices should be very, very worried.

However, none of this will mean anything to Generation Y, as the tragic flaw with the iPad is that it doesn’t multitask! Despite Apple’s vision for the iPad to bridge the gap between iPhones and laptops, you can’t, for example, listen to music and write a document at the same time. This is bad news for a generation characterised by its multi-tasking tendencies.

Look at it this way: How many Generation Ys have you seen doing seemingly a million things at once with their technologies? Listening to their iPods, calling their friends, while watching online videos and looking up items on Wikipedia…This is the generation which blends all areas of its life and pounces upon technologies which enables this. With creative blends of technology already on the market (such as your filofax on your phone and internet on your television), why would Generation Y want a technology which doesn’t facilitate multitasking?

In sum, while the iPad is a clever conglomerate of technologies in one device, that the user can’t use more than one technology at a time means it won’t be well liked by Generation Y. Perhaps when an iPad 2 comes out, with the ability to use multiple applications at once, Generation Y may pay attention.

give me by nuvole

I was asked by my boyfriend, James, the other day whether I missed university. It followed a similar conversation he had had with friends. My immediate reaction was, ‘yes… sort of’. I didn’t miss the insular bubble of university, as it had caused reality to hit me pretty hard when I left (giving me large dose of Quarter Life Crisis). But what I missed more than anything was the intensive learning and the feeling that I was adding significant value to my life every day. James agreed – he and his friends felt the same thing.

What are businesses doing wrong? My Generation Y friends working in small and medium companies often feel that they don’t get enough training and so feel their skills aren’t being used to their maximum capacity. Conversely, those friends in large companies feel that, while training might be good, they don’t make a difference – that they aren’t recognised for what they contribute. In both cases, the lack lies in helping Generation Y feel that it adds value. We don’t just want a job for security or to pay the bills, our sole purpose in life is to feel that we are adding value, not only to our own lives, but to those around us.

Why is this? We had numerous after-school activities squashed into our lives when we were kids and the technology we have today allows us to multitask and learn anything we want. Then we went to university which intensified this experience, helping create a generation which feels undervalued if it not packing 100% of its abilities into its time (this is also why the mass youth unemployment may cause Generation Y significant psychological damage – what’s the point of life if you can’t add value?).

While this attitude may be a pain for employers, it’s wonderful because you can’t train that kind of passion into someone. And here we are with a whole generation of them, particularly the unemployed ones, ready and willing to give it their all, tirelessly, everyday. Imagine being able to harness this passion! Businesses which realise this and take action to understand what their Generation Y means by ‘adding value’, and implement strategies designed around such ideals will realise some excellent gains, from a more effective corporate culture to increased productivity and innovation.

Posted by: heledd42 | January 20, 2010

The Enigma of Schroedinger’s Gen Y

The Joy of an Empty Box by Images By Tracey - On Commenting Hiatus

If you put Generation Y in a box, and then you open the box, what is the likelihood that your opinion of them will be correct, incorrect, or both?

People like giving other people labels, such as ‘Generation Y’, because it makes them easier to put in a box, complete with stereotyped characteristics. The problem with this is that people are more complicated than that and this I believe is one of the reasons managers of Generation Y can’t seem to get their heads around this generation.

For example, Gen Y is confident and ambitious, but also arrogant and entitled. They’re hard-working and idealist, but lazy and ignorant. They’re innovative, yet conservative; socially conscious, yet selfish; happy, yet depressed. On the face of it, Generation Y is one big walking contradiction. This is because Generation Y’s particular box has been created by other generations’ interpretations of Gen Y behaviour, so when they behave in a way that doesn’t fit their ‘box’, people get into a tizz about it and add more labels to the point that the box no longer makes any sense.

In their obsession with boxes, the big thing that people forget is that there is always a reason for behaviour. People don’t behave ‘badly’ because they’re thinking, ‘hey, I’m going to behave badly, just because’, they will have consciously or unconsciously justified that behaviour to themselves. The challenge for businesses is to figure out why Generation Ys behave the way they do. And what’s the best way to do this? Engage them in dialogue. Be like Socrates and help them understand their own minds by asking questions. ‘Why is it important to you come in late?’, ‘How does it help you to listen to your iPod at work?’ Asking questions will create mutual understanding and trust. Soon enough this cohort’s behaviour will no longer seem odd, and successful engagement strategies will inevitably emerge.

It’s easy to put someone in a box, but if you do that, how are you supposed to communicate with them?

Posted by: heledd42 | January 14, 2010

The Future Effects of Youth Unemployment?

Work For Food by rzrxtion (pronounced resurrection)

Generation Y is currently getting kicked in the teeth. Brought up in the longest economic boom in history, they invested thousands of pounds and years of their life into building up their education and skills so that they could launch a spectacular career and so add tremendous value to society. Instead, the recession has caused around 18.5% of both American and British youth to become unemployed, leaving millions in debt and with the heavy feeling that they have been betrayed by the very institutions which promised to support them.

But why all the fuss? Surely they can just pop back home to their parents, sponge off them for a while and then get a job when things are looking up? Well, youth unemployment has negative long term effects too. Take a look at the image below, which indicates the potentially massive financial damage caused by youth unemployment.

As the graph shows, just starting out five years later can cause you to lose 17% of your potential earnings and 27% of potential savings. This loss will also impact important life developments, such as pensions and buying a house – a decision which will now not be an option for Generation Y for a number of years to come.

Of course, Generation Y is unlikely to be unemployed for half a decade, but the graph hints at the potential of the future damage caused by youth unemployment today, not just on Generation Y itself, but on the economy as a whole. Think: Generation Y will have to support the massive Boomer population as they retire, so how much more of a strain will it be if they are earning 17% less than they could have been? How can consumers support economic growth if their savings are short by 27%?

Thus, before casting Gen Y aside, businesses need to think long and hard about the long term impact of unemployment, not only on the unfortunate youth, but also on themselves.

Posted by: heledd42 | January 4, 2010

Music of the Generational Zeitgeist

Lady Gaga - I've Just Begun by Daniel Suarez™

Employers and marketers: Having trouble understanding the different generations? How about looking at them from the perspective of musical role models? As a result of shared experiences and ideas, every generation develops a unique ‘zeitgeist’ or mindset, of which music produces the protagonists.


Rebelling against the austerity of their parents’ generation, combined with their vast numbers, Boomers developed an idealist mindset, believing they could change the world for the better. From this sprung musical role models such as the Beatles and Pink Floyd, who constantly pushed the boundaries of music towards new and exciting horizons.

Generation X

Generation X grew up in a world where youth employment was non-existent and many of the world’s governments and corporations seemed to promote the ideal of ‘every man for himself’ in the scramble for money and material possessions. Thus, role models which reflected an increasingly disillusioned and cynical generation included Rage against the Machine and Nirvana, which screamed back at the world that this was not good enough.

Generation Y

Many have thought this cohort would become a realistic generation, but this does not appear so. Sarah Merion wrote a blog on Generation Y heroines, naming Lady Gaga and Rhianna as such role models, whose outlandish images appeal to Generation Y’s escapist tendencies. Brought up in a cotton wool environment and now exposed to the worst of the recession, it is easy to understand Gen Y’s tendency to retreat into an escapist child-like world, where it can be momentarily distracted by intense and fantastical images and sounds.

Idealist, cynical or escapist, there is of course more to generations than musical protagonists, but understanding the ‘zeitgeist’ of a generation is the first step in creating successful engagements with key market segments or employees.

Posted by: heledd42 | December 21, 2009

FATM (Facebook Against the Machine)

Rage Against the machine @ optimus alive by Cátia Rodrigues

Last night was a good night. Not only, after months of anticipation, did I get to watch Avatar 3D, but as we traipsed across the icy roads back to the car-park, I received an SMS from a friend announcing that anti-establishment rock band, Rage Against the Machine, had beaten X-Factor’s Joe in the most competitive battle in years for the 2009 Christmas Number 1 in the UK singles chart.

RATM’s unimagined victory is a demonstration of the power of social media,  beginning as it did as a Facebook group launched in response to this years controversial X-Factor. Over the last couple of months, viewers had watched in disbelief as excellent singers, such as Lucie Jones, were, one by one, knocked out of the show as a result of what appeared to be Simon Cowell’s political manoeuvring to get at least one of his chosen singers into the final. No longer was it a talent contest it seemed, but a demonstration of the power of the establishment to maximise viewers and profits. And Average Joe McElderry had become its poster boy.

The RATM Facebook group soared to nearly 1million members, and messages screamed through Twitter urging people to buy the single, ‘Killing in the Name’, of which key lyrics include, ‘I won’t do what you tell me’. The campaign drew massive media attention and gained the support from the likes of Paul McCartney.

When I received that SMS, I realised is this: this spectacular victory of the people against the establishment should send a piercing message to employers and marketers of particularly Generations X and Y that they have the power. Listen and empower them and they’ll return in kind, but try to walk all over them and you’ll be surprised at the size and weight of their boots.

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