Archive for March, 2016

One of my favorite business buzzwords is Convergence.

It describes the interaction of seemingly unrelated industries creating new opportunities, new markets, and new products.

My favorite example is photo copiers. Copiers were traditionally leased by companies through agents that charged by usage. Introduce multi-function printers that are networked and require IT engagement and you have convergence. Copier guys didn’t know about IT stuff and IT guys couldn’t convince libraries to spend $10,000 on a printer/copier combo machine. Convergence in the print market meant an opportunity for lease-pricing models in the IT space.

In every day life, I experience low-level convergence when the most annoying song in the history of the planet plays on the radio in my car, in my doctor’s office, in the restaurant where I’m having lunch, and in the drug store all within a few hours of one another. Seriously, retire the fucking Spin Doctors already.

Higher-level convergence occurs intellectually when seemingly unrelated knowledge links to create a whole new stream of thought.

So that’s what happened yesterday.

First, ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse talked about meeting people who’d read his blog and being treated as if they were friends. His audience had connected with him (even if he hadn’t connected with them) and the intimacy of their exchange was at once unnerving and exciting.

Then, I watched Gerard Adams TV (the Millennial Mentor) talk about leaders creating leaders through mentoring. I stuck with it because 1) it’s true stuff and 2) he interviews his own mentor, GenXer Ryan Blair. The takeaway was Blair’s advice to “Create Value” in whatever you’re doing.

Finally, I heard Chamath Palihapitiya in an interview with Kara Swisher, a veteran tech reporter with the Wall Street Journal on her resume, on the Re/Code Decode podcast. Chamath talked about his company, Social Capital, investing in firms that were working for the greater good. He said there is tremendous value in any company that is working to give people back their time.

Okay — connect with your audience, create value, give back time.

As I’m working through the book proposal for my new work model book, I’m playing around with ideas as to how to promote it. The model itself will give back time and the work I’m doing on it should create value. Connecting with the audience should be straight forward as I want the book to address both business leaders who can change their organizational management structure to adopt a knowledge economy work model and the agents themselves who should demand fair work environments that reward results, not visibility.

Mostly, though, I couldn’t stop thinking about how quintessentially X these three men are. Darren built an online business out of his blog, a unique idea when he began 12 years ago. Ryan is a bestselling author of Nothing to Lose Everything to Gain the story of his rock-bottom-to-multi-millionaire trajectory. Chamath has AOL roots and Silicon Valley pedigree and is now looking to finance companies that have the potential to bring more people to the starting line.

There are two key factors in all of these stories: optimism and hard work. Is there anything more quintessentially X than: “Okay, you believe in yourself. Great. Now put your head down and do the work to make something happen.” ?

I’m crushing big time on Chamath and will have at least one more post just on the Kara Swisher interview. Listening to it yesterday, I went all fan-girl in the car. Sigh.

For now, though, the convergence of thought has inspired me to get back to work.

Last summer I read an article that reported a survey conducted with millennials (those born between 1985 and 2000) asking them to choose which generational moniker they believed described them: The Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, or Millennials.

The overwhelming majority claimed “The Greatest Generation.”

I was dumbfounded. How had these morons escaped the fact that the folks who fought World War II and rescued Europe from the tyranny of Nazis were The Greatest Generation? Tom Brokaw, who to many of us GenX’ers is a God, named them that. So it must be true, right?

Taking this survey story to my mom’s football tailgate in the fall, where she and her Baby Boomer siblings host me and my GenX friends and my Millennial cousins and their friends, I thought everyone would be amused by it.

To a one, the Millennials chose The Greatest Generation as their obvious moniker.

“What the fuck have you ever done to earn that name?” I asked, with typical GenX hostility, adding, “Unless you’re simply being ironic?”

My cousin claimed to not know anything about these generational monikers and I wondered if I was unaware of such things at his age. But, the thing is, the Baby Boomers have always told us who they are. Always.

Then they told us who we are: Generation X.

Now marketing bloggers are warning brands not to categorize Millennials, not to try to define them or market directly to them. They will decide what’s cool and what’s not. As if that’s some big new insight in how teenagers and young adults behave.

“Being stereotyped is off-putting,” this blog claims. “No Millennial will self-identify as such.”

But here’s the thing: a generational moniker is not a stereotype. It’s when you were born. So you can’t exactly say it’s not what you are.

You might not exhibit the typical characteristics of a member of the group. Maybe you’re a Baby Boomer who didn’t spend away the 80s and is now putting off retirement because you want to stay involved (i.e. you can’t afford it). Maybe you’re a GenX’er whose parent (mother, let’s be honest) was home every afternoon after school and you grew up well-attended-to and valued. Maybe you’re a Millennial who is not obsessed with social media and celebrities.

But if you are these exceptions, you’re just that: an exception.

Generational monikers are applied because they help us recognize value systems. GenX’ers went from being latch key kids to being helicopter parents not by accident.

Sure, there are some habits and behaviors that have more to do with age than generation. Every single group spent time wanting to be different, to change the world, to engage with each other and the universe in a way that was gratifying and meaningful.

Call it the optimism of youth.

Before they put their heads down and went to war because that was what they had to do, even The Greatest Generation had aspirations. And they made strides, they really did, by engaging women in the workforce during the war and leaving them there afterward.

The Baby Boomers had hippies and love-ins and the Civil Rights Movement and they made strides, they really did, on college campuses and in the workforce. Baby Boomers invented branding, brand recognition, and corporate sponsorship.

Generation X thumbed its nose at the establishment, like good little rebels, but then climbed into the boats of corporate America and started rowing. Then two recessions disrupted their soldierly rank-holding so they’ve pioneered an age of innovation and discovery that includes the largest surge of entrepreneurship ever.

The Millennials will have their chance. They’re still trying to figure out what they want to get focused on. Whether it’s some global humanitarian cause or simply finding time in their daily lives to be more than worker bees, the Millennials will make strides. But they shouldn’t reject their heritage.

It’s the values instilled by your era that determine the focus you will have.

We’re very different people because of the time periods that shaped us. And that’s as it should be. Even if we do think the other groups are getting it all wrong.