Can we all just get along? Generational Diversity according to Malcolm Gladwell

From selling $8.00 T-Shirts to author and keynote for #SHRM12’s annual global conference, Malcolm Gladwell began his session with the phraze, “The tipping point of society is that magic moment when social behavior tips and spreads like wildflower.”

This is something that we are terrified of happening in our cushy little world be it with our children on social media or in our workplaces – where we totally feel loss of control.

Let’s face it, we are in the middle of a cultural fundamental shift in how generations choose to not only communicate (think social web) but how they see the world.

Here are a few take-aways from Malcolm’s session on the distinctions of generational diversity and our organizations:

There are major distinctions about this generation. Let’s look at the Occupy Movement.

  • Did they have a leader? No Where they following a bunch of ideas? No. Did they have an organization? Not really, only a general assembly and if someone wanted to speak or had a contribution they pulled your name out of a hat and allowed you to speak. It was about building a network of folks who had similar beliefs and were passionate about it, but they all had a say.
  • There was no organized manner of doing things. There was no hierarchy.

We are seeing a fundamental shift in how generations view the world, their beliefs and their work places. It’s critical to the success of our organizations that we roll with this generational paradigm shift with them.

We’ve had these paradigm shifts throughout history and if we were to go back we wouldn’t even recognize the workplace.

The New Social Organization

The new generation of folks who were born in the 80’s have a profoundly different notion of how organized groups behave. These are those who grew up on video technology. These are the new millennial’s who are invading our organizations.

They are not hip to a hierarchy like we were where, where we accepted rules, went along with the flow and  if you got beat up you just.didn’t.fight.back. We were passive in our growing up with hierarchy’s where  one guy at the top made all the decisions in the organizations and you just went with it. Like it or get the hell out!

The new millennial’s don’t think this way. They don’t even think in terms of a hierarchy. They have swung full throttle and believe in an even level playing field.

  • It’s about their network. It’s not closed, it’s opened.
  • It’s not centralized, it’s decentralized.

In the end, understanding that one form is not better than the other and are instead simply two different forms with each having their own strengths and weaknesses. Not, that one is wrong and the other is right.

It’s key that millennial’s understand that they need to learn from others and their experiences. Many kids don’t understand that. And our challenge is to understand that both can coexist and work together.

The most successful companies understand these two models (think Apple). They have the best of the hierarchy and the best of a network. When you incorporate these two things you have the best of both worlds.

Photo Credit: MojoRising

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2 thoughts on “Can we all just get along? Generational Diversity according to Malcolm Gladwell

  1. Pingback: 07.10.12 The Morning Buzz | Oregon Emerging Local Government Leaders Network

  2. Pingback: A look back into SHRM Conferences in pictures, blogs and videos! #SHRM13 | HR Virtual Cafe

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