Jul. 21 2011

Taking Generational Differences into Account for Effective Communication

As years pass and generations change, our society finds itself in transitional periods that can be confusing, if not downright daunting. It’s human nature to try to make sense of change, and our collective reasoning is no different. Being part of an industry that prides itself in understanding human behavior and patterns, we strive to analyze how generational change affects people’s outlooks and perspectives.

Our Senior Designer, Ryan Brinkerhoff (@BRINKERHOFF), and I had the chance to take part in a very interesting luncheon presented by the Columbus AMA, where Chuck Underwood spoke about generational change and how it affects society’s values through time in his lecture, “Generational Leadership Transition & the American Marketplace.” Underwood, a researcher in generational dynamics both in the workplace and at home and founder/principal of generational consulting firm, The Generational Imperative, Inc., gave some key insights into the different living generations and how each affects our society.

The five living generations in America are, in Underwood’s words:

  • G.I. Generation – “Assertive and energetic doers. Excellent team players. Community-minded and patriotic. An ACTION generation.”

  • Silents – “Provided the iconic leaders of the 1960’s social revolt. Many are working past normal retirement age.  Excelled in the helping professions but struggled as leaders. A RIGHTS generation.”

  • Boomers – “Career-driven assertive leaders. Ethical and demanding. This generation is all about VALUES.”

  • GenX’ers – “Grew up street-smart but isolated, often with divorced or time-starved dual-career parents. Entrepreneurial, independent, and creative. This generation is all about SURVIVAL.”

  • Millenials – “America’s next great generation is a sharp departure from Generation X. Optimistic, idealistic, patriotic, and over-parented. They’ll be all about ACTION.”

Each generation is defined by different values, attained and internalized during each generation’s formative years. One of Underwood’s key principles is that during our early twenties, when we enter adulthood, we will mold our core values and beliefs that will be kept for life. When core values are shared by many, a generation is formed.

Different core values and perspectives dictate how we perceive the world and respond to it. Understanding these responses is imperative when trying to have an effective impact on any audience. After hearing Mr. Underwood speak, it is even more apparent now that one message — one voice– doesn’t apply to everyone. If we are to be effective communicators, we must understand how to interact with audiences that have different values and beliefs. Here at Origo we believe in the discovery process, understanding our clients from their origin. This process helps us make sure we communicate effectively, allowing our voice to resonate with our audience and throughout generations.

Comments ( 2 )
  • Jessica Hamlin says:

    What an excellent overview! There’s so much to consider, but when you can drill down into the psychographics of your intended audience, crafting the message can almost become easier. You might need more channels of specifically created messaging, but you’ll be on target, talking to your customer in a way and from a viewpoint that resonates personally.

    • Martim Thomaz says:

      Thank you for your comment, Jessica! You are very right: understanding how our audience thinks is a fundamental necessity for effective communication. This, when coupled with creative ways of delivering the message, helps us be much more on point with our audience. Thanks for keeping up with our blog! We appreciate your feedback.

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