What the New Generational Gap Means to our Future

We’ve all heard the cliché, “Can’t live with them; can’t live without them.” Unless you’re from Mars, the “them” is people. We all are involved with people and ultimately, we’re all in the “people business.”

Success or failure in the people business is not determined by our ability to manipulate each other, but by our ability to relate to each other. Sometimes, there’s a fine line between the two. The good news about succeeding in the people business is all the knowledge you need has already been written – the question is not availability; the question is discovering and applying the wisdom that’s there.

Simple Community

Recently, I read the book Simple Community by Rich Luker. In it, he identifies three economic stages our society has gone through: Farming, Manufacturing and Service. The problem is that the Service economy, which we are currently in, isolates and separates people from one another, and unless individuals put forth an effort the traditions of families and friends erode. However, our need to interact at a meaningful level with people we care about has not diminished; Human interaction is a basic need.

In his book, Luker states: “PEOPLE taking TIME to gather together in a PLACE suited to enjoying each other. They bring the RESOURCES needed to have fun. The best times give rise to STORIES that they tell again and again. When they are really lucky, something happens that creates a TRADITION, which begs to be repeated.”

You may read the stories in this month’s issue on families and couples in business and say, “Our family could never do that,” when actually your ancestors did. It’s in our DNA to do things together that have a purpose.

Luker says the difference lies in technology and how it tends to isolates us.

Technology: Friend or Foe?

Technology is a fabulous tool, and if used to enhance relationships is powerful. However, texts and tweets with mindless comments don’t enhance or add value to any relationship. The power of the tool is to engage friends and families in activities together. What we see today is that even when people come together, instead of taking the opportunity to interact personally with those closest to them, they remain distracted with technology: texting, emailing, iPods, iBooks, etc.

Technology has fooled us into believing all things are urgent, and that’s just not so.

The Generational Gap

In his book, Luker identifies the first real generational gap. He defines the difference as: youth understand, respect and accept technology, whereas Boomers and previous generations possess the wisdom of personal interaction. A family business, a family, or any other organization for that matter, has little hope of success without recognizing this gap. The bridge that must be built is helping the younger generation to realize that the “wisdom of people” is as important as knowing how to make a piece of technology work.

This is a big bridge because you can’t build what you don’t recognize as necessary. My oldest daughter graduated from college recently. Her generation is the first to finish a lifecycle with continual access to technology, and now they are going to start families. What is going to be passed along? How will wisdom of people and knowledge of technology intersect over a chasm that is wider than the Grand Canyon?

As Luker points out, our youth have a hard time listening to us about their careers, relationships, and future when we can’t work with the tools that for them is second nature. What is more, our youth know how to find answers, like doing a math problem on a calculator, but they don’t know why that answer is applicable or how it works. Luker describes it well when he says, “Boomers are one mile wide and ten miles deep, and the younger generation is ten miles wide and one inch deep.”

This gap threatens our future more than any mindless argument or hot topic on CNN or FOX. We have a generation that does not understand WHY – scary because while technology provides shortcuts, there are no shortcuts in life.

Receive a complimentary copy of Rich Luker’s book, Simple Community, by attending the 11th Annual FIT/Harris Ethics and Leadership Seminar on March 23.