Generation Next

The Modern Concept of Generations.

Did you know that “generations” is a modern concept developed in the 19th Century and further into the 20th Century? Sarah Laskow reported in The Atlantic how the concept of generations had appeal and took hold, because it provided groups with a methodology to form an identity and position themselves in history.

But, are generations still relevant today? It seems that the time may have come for the next generation to take over, for micro-generations to become the norm, or to do away with the notion of generations all together.

There’s been so much talk about Millennials over the last decade, with the generation providing much fodder. Some debate, “Are Millennials doomed?” Take the debate last April on Intelligence2 Debates, “Millennials Don’t Stand a Chance,” that pitted speakers against each other to debate this very notion. One side contributed solid evidence as to why the generation can still make an impact, while the other side proffered that this generation has significant headwinds, such as the high unemployment rate amongst youth, the cost of education and associated debt, and the under-education of Millennial minorities in an increasingly knowledge-based economy.

We’ve been talking about Millennials for over 20 years, with Neil Howe and William Strauss defining the generation in 1991. So perhaps Millennials aren’t doomed, but are they over? Aren’t we done with Millennials already? Shouldn’t we be ushering in the next generation?

This Generation Z is a generation yet to be named and fully show themselves, yet there are some who are already garnering attention. Take Mo’ne Davis who last year graced the front cover of Sports Illustrated as the first girl to pitch in a Youth World Series, and, to top it off, pitch a shutout. It won’t take long for the oldest of this generation to start demonstrating just what they will and can do. Such reports are starting to come out to frame this next generation:

  • This article, “Make Way for Generation Z,” from The New York Times by Alexandra Levitt suggests this generation is eager, independent, diverse, and perhaps the next generation employees to which employers have to cater.
  • This early coverage from JWT Intelligence, “Gen Z Rising,” speaks to how this is a digitally-connected, cause-focused group.

But, is the concept of generations still relevant? Has the concept run its course in whole or in part? Given how fast the world moves today, perhaps we should speak of micro-generations. Generational experts certainly allude to how those at the start of a generation are different than those born later in the defined timeframe. A book released at the end of last year by Tom Koulopoulos and Dan Keldsen, “The Gen Z Effect: The Six Forces Shaping the Future of Business,” actually speaks to how technology may be blurring the lines between generations, making shared experiences more common.

Perhaps the time has come for us to do away with this modern norm of identity definition and move towards one of building common, shared values and experiences. We might make more progress blending the wisdom of older generations with the audacious spirit of the young to collectively make progress and move forward together.

The Culture Forecast: Help me feel comfortable with, connect, and work hand-in-hand with those of all ages.


Photo Credit: Hartwig HKD


Laskow, Sarah. “Generations Are an Invention—Here’s How They Came to Be,” The Atlantic, September 11, 2014.

Levit, Alexandra. “Make Way for Generation Z,” The New York Times, March 28, 2015.

Steiner, Hallie. Gen Z Rising,” JWT Intelligence, April 10, 2015.

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