An American Generational Biography

[Update: Delano's slides are available.]

Richard K. Delano, who is the Co-founder LifeCourse Associates, a generational analysis consulting and publishing firm, is presenting this morning in an IdeaFestival event in Louisville.

It's titled "Millennials Rising: Recruiting, Retaining & Marketing to 'Today's' Generation."

IF plans to do more than of these events going forward. I blogged yesterday about another such event. So stay tuned.

Richard says he's at the tail end of three straight weeks on the road. He explains that he got involved in 1992 with Scholastic Inc., to manage its custom publication operation. By way of doing some research, he read the book Generations (1991), which was a big hit with the heavyweight political set in the White House and Congress. The book is about 500 pages, but the last chapter discussed the millennial generation, something he remembered. He has continued his generational study.

All generational change is nonlinear. Stepping WAY back, he says there have been 14 generations from 1584 to 2069, grouped in fours. We're on the cusp of a "fourth turn" now.

He believes that four generational archetypes are repeated every four years - Hero, Artist, Prophet, and Nomad. The corresponding periods are High, Awakening, Unraveling and Crisis.

Boomers are born in a High period and came of age in the Awakening period, for example. Returning to the grouping of four theme, he believes that Boomers correspond to the "Civil War missionary generation." I'd love to hear more about that.

He believes that there is a very good story to tell about the Millennial generation now.

As a way of making a point on perspectives, the generations are like trains going through stations. The view is changing along the way but the perspectives might not.

More quickly now. I'll apologize in advance for not capturing everything:

G.I. generation participated in improving youth trends, particularly when it comes to education. It's a perspective that they've carried forward.

The Silent Generation ages 62 - 80 now were told to keep their heads low and were largely rewarded. One typical big concern for this group in the workplace might be about work pensions, something most people now don't even count on. They stayed in the background and remained socially conformed.

The Boomer population is actually a smaller percentage of the population than X-ers and Gen-Y. In a funny line, he says Boomers "took drugs to think outside the box, and give their kids drugs to think inside the box."

They were a generation of one worsening youth trend - SAT scores declined. Boomers famously resisted authority.

Since 1967 a poll of incoming freshmen has shown a decline in people who say developing a meaningful philosophy of life is their most important goal.

X-ers - 25 - 46 in age, take a more jaded view, in contrast. They want to get to the point. That realism is also combined with a certain pessimism toward the job they have. They are much more quick to job hop.

Gen-X parents focus on cost when it comes to what they want out of a college.

Millennials, who were born in 1982, are community focused. It sounds like the G.I. Generation of four generations ago. They are also the most diverse generation; it will be known for the assimilation of those immigrants.

The biggest divides between Boomers, Gen-Xers and Millennials are gender, race and money, respectively.

Millennial personality traits are special, sheltered, confident and team-oriented, among others traits he lists. But ironically, this generation, which will be so accomplished, may be less socially adept - something pointed out to the business owners and managers in the audience.

There is more trust in institutions and the fairness of rules. They accept peer pressure more readily.

There is a ton of data on screen that I'm not capturing as he scrolls through the Millennial data, sorry.

It's a "Harry Potter" generation - smart and educated and more oriented toward institutions than the recent past. Walt Disney, Google, Department of State, FBI and CIA are top job choices for this group. They have a very different sensitivity toward life and community. For companies, making social commitments are important to Millennials. Google exploits this by not limiting social networking on the job.

The number of passing AP exams also continues to rise among all racial groups in this generation.

But don't think that the group will think outside the box - he emphasizes that each generation has its strengths and weaknesses. It's a steady refrain.

There is, however, a huge shift from "I" to "we," something that should be applauded.

In conclusion, the generations are now spinning into the "fourth turning," where the Millennials take the country can't be predicted with accuracy. It's simply not a linear process, he cautions.

He also touches on similarities the between the generations in the U.S. and China, something I'd like to hear more about.

And with that, we're done.

Wayne