Our 5 Generation Star Wars Family

Just typing the title gives me pause…

But it’s true – my immediate family: my wife and me, our four children and their spouses, and all their children fall into five generational cohorts in use today.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Boomer – born 1943-1964 – 2
  • Gen X – born 1965-1981 – 2
  • Millennial – born 1982-1996 – 6
  • Gen Z – born 1997-2010 – 2
  • Alpha – born 2011-2025 – 8

That’s 20 humans, ranging from 4 months old to 65 years old.

And since we are a Star Wars family, with the announcement of the official new Star Wars Universe timeline, we have a new way to track our generational cohorts.

Here is the official new Star Wars timeline, updated to include The High Republic era:

  • The High Republic – The new official starting point of the Star Wars canon, set 200 years before the Prequel Trilogy. It will be explored in the new “High Republic” line of Star Wars books and comics coming in 2021. A tie-in series on Disney+ (The Acolyte) has also been announced.
  • Fall of The Jedi – Covering the Jedi Order’s fall and Sith return, in The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, The Clone Wars, and Revenge of the Sith.
  • Reign of The Empire – Exploring the initial rise of The Empire and the chaos of its shadow covering galaxy. Covering events depicted in the upcoming Bad Batch animated series, and Solo: A Star Wars Story.
  • Age of Rebellion – The slow but sure rise of The Rebellion in the decades after the Empire’s rise. Covering events in Star Wars Rebels, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi.
  • The New Republic – The chaos after Palpatine’s seeming demise, as the Empire struggled to survive, and a New Republic started to take form. The Mandalorian is set in this time period.
  • Rise of the First Order – The Imperial remnants re-organize into The First Order, and attempt to reclaim the galaxy, as part of Palpatine’s resurrection. Covers events in Star Wars: Resistance, The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker.

In the summer of 1977, just finishing my freshman year in college, I went to the opening night of A New Hope as soon as it came to Nashville, TN. And I returned – three more times in the next week, and a few more during the summer.

Our children, especially the older two boys born in 1981 and 1984, grew up with Star Wars movies (via videotape), LEGO sets, and other toys.

All of this finds us following the Age of Rebellion.

As they reached high school and then college age and then young adulthood, the boys, their mother and me, (and eventually their spouses), entered the Fall of the Jedi timeline.

My second son, by this time entering into his early twenties, took an even deeper dive in the Star Wars: beginning the building of a large Star Wars library from the vast amounts of books and comic books available; adding to the Star Wars LEGO sets in a big way; creating costume elements for display and wearing, and in a few short years, welcoming his daughter to the world of Star Wars.

Born in 2010, she (along with her older cousin) were the perfect age for the development of the Rise of the First Order. With a huge amount of material available in her father’s library and carefully curated access to the Internet, she became the most knowledgeable of the younger generation in our family.

Last year’s debut of Disney+, with The Mandalorian leading the way, was eagerly anticipated by multiple generations in our family. Some of us watched it during lunch breaks the day it came out; most of us had completed each week’s release by the evening it came out, often jumping on a intra-family text thread. We’re squarely in The New Republic now.

With the avalanche of announcements by Lucasfilm this week, we’re ready to branch out in both directions: The Reign of the Empire will be right in time for more of our grandchildren as they come of (the right) age to understand, and The High Republic will anchor the founding history (at least for now) for our entire family.

With no Christmas holiday movie release this year (a much-anticipated family event over the past five years), we will no doubt be talking (virtually) about the eagerly-awaited development of all the new shows, books, comics, and yes, LEGO sets, that are coming in the next year.

And then there’s always an anticipated trip to a galaxy far, far away.

But in the meantime, the finale of the second season of The Mandalorian is now out, and it’s time for an early morning viewing!

These Are Not the Worst of Times; America Has Been Here Before

Over the first six decades of the twentieth century American had become demonstrably – indeed measurably – a more “we” society.

Over the past five decades America has become demonstrably – indeed measurably – a more “I” society.

By using advanced methods of data analysis to combine four key metrics of economics, politics, society, and culture into a unified statistical survey, authors Robert Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett have been able to discern a single core phenomenon – a single inverted U-curve that provides a scientifically validate summary of the past 125 years of American’s story.

The Upswing traces the roots of today’s problems to the last time the same problems threatened to engulf our democracy. It contains an evidenced-based story about how we have arrived at our current predicament. The authors examined how economic inequality, political polarization, social fragmentation, cultural narcissism, racism, and gender discrimination each evolved over the course of the last 125 years.

Putnam and Romney Garrett argue that the state of America today must be understood by fist acknowledge that within living memory, each of the adverse trends they now see were going in the opposite direction. To a surprising degree century-long trends in economics, politics, society, and culture are remarkably similar, such that is tis possible to summarize all of them in a singe phenomenon:

The story of the American experiment in the twentieth century is one of a long upswing toward increasing solidarity, followed by a steep downturn into increasing individualism. From “I” to “we,” and back again.

Perhaps, according to the authors, the single most important lesson we can hope to gain from this analysis is that in the past America has experienced a storm of unbridled individualism in our culture, our communities, our politics, and our economics, and it produced then, as it has today, a national situation that few Americans founded appealing.

But, America successfully weathered that storm once, and the authors believe we can do it again.

If there were ever a historical moment whose lessons we as a nation need to learn, it is the moment when the first American Gilded Age (1870-1900) turned into the Progressive Era (1900-1915), a moment which set in motion a sea change that helped us reclaim our nation’s promise, and whose effects rippled into almost every corner of American life for over half a century.

Putnam and Romney Garrett hope that an awareness of the this moment may find the tools and inspirations needed today to create another American upswing – this time with an unwavering commitment to complete inclusion that will take us toward yet a higher summit, and a fuller and more sustainable realization of the promise of “we.”


Inspired and adapted from The Upswing: How American Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again, by Robert D. Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett

What I Can Expect from My Gen Z Grandchildren’s World

As I tend to do with a lot of Friday’s 27gen posts, I try to look at the world around us through the lens of the five generations currently in my immediate family of 20: 2 Boomers, 2 Gen X, 6 Millennials, 2 Gen Z, and 8 Alpha Generation (the “unofficial,” but popular name for those born since 2010).

Today, a quick dive into a fascinating book: Zconomy, by Jason Dorsey and Denise Villa. Dorsey and Villa are the president and CEO, respectively, of the Center for Generational Kinetics (CGK). The insights in Zconomy are based on the authors’ extensive global research, presentations, and consulting work.

Gen Z’s expectations are so different because they are so different from other generations. They are the first to lead fully digital lives. They are being raised by parents affected by past events such as 9/11 and the Great Recession, as well as contemporary realities from the COVID-19 pandemic to online gaming, Brexit, and presidential politics.

They are connected to the world, and one another, across continents and across town using technology that for them has always been available. They have strong and vocal opinions about social issues from student load debt and gun control to equality and climate change. And for the first time in history, digital media has given a generation this young the power to instantly bolster (or derail) global brands, become activist, and influence how companies do business – sometimes with a single tweet, post, or cell phone video.

We’ve heard loud and clear from Gen Z that they are not Millennials 2.0.

Gen Z is older than most people think, with the oldest members already up to age twenty-four in 2020. This large, diverse, connected-from-birth generation is soon to be the fastest growing generation in the workforce.

To understand just how different Gen Z worldview are from even Millennials, take these two quick examples:

  • Gen Z does not remember 9/11. They learned about it in history class, from a parent recalling the experience, or on a YouTube video. As a result, Gen Z can’t recall the feeling of fear and uncertainty that came as this event was unfolding – which made it the defining moment of the Millennial generation.
  • Gen Z has come of age with the COVID-19 pandemic creating fear, uncertainty, vulnerability, and confusion. The pandemic has caused massive disruption in schools, work, travel, politics, family, and much more. While the long-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic remain to be seen, it is already clear that this is the defining moment of the generation thus far.

With the pace of change and breakthroughs accelerating, the future in which Gen Z will navigate adulthood for the next fifty-plus years will be unlike any that previous generations experienced. 

Looking ahead twenty- and thirty-plus years, here are 10 Disruptive Trends the Center for Generational Kinetics thinks will likely influence Gen Z for decades to come:

  1. Car and Transportation Evolution
  2. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
  3. Aging Population and Generational Transition
  4. AI, IoT, Connected Devices, and Consumer Tech
  5. Workforce Automation
  6. Medical Breakthroughs
  7. Consumer Space Travel
  8. Global Challenges
  9. Blockchain
  10. College Transformation

All of the trends, breakthroughs, challenges, and innovations will dramatically shape and alter the beliefs and expectations of Gen Z. This will happen in a much deeper, faster, and more integrated way than when personal computers altered Gen X or smartphones connected Millennials or the web and social media bridged continents instantly.

For more information:


Inspired and adapted from Zconomy by Jason Dorsey and Denise Villa

What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny

Today is a follow on post to The History of America’s Future, which looked at Generations, a 1992 book by William Strauss and Neil Howe. Generations is a speculation by the authors that the history of America can be seen as a succession of generational cycles.

The Fourth Turning is one of their follow-up books, taking a DEEP dive into what the next “turning” could look like. Keep in mind that this was written in 1997, and uses past history to project a possible future.

A few quotes from the opening chapter sets the tone:

America feel’s like it’s unraveling.

Though we live in an era of relative peace and comfort, we have settled into a mood of pessimism about the long-term future, fearful that our superpower nation is somehow rotting from within.

Not long ago, America was more than the some of its parts. Now, it is less. Where we once through ourselves collectively strong, we now regard ourselves as individually entitled.

Yet even while we exalt our own personal growth, we realize that millions of self-actualized persons don’t add up to an actualized society. Popular trust in virtually every American institution – from businesses and governments to churches and newspapers – keeps falling to new lows. Public debts soar, the middle class shrinks, welfare dependencies deepen, and cultural arguments worsen by the year.

Wherever we’re headed, America is evolving in ways most of us don’t like or understand. Individually focused yet collectively adrift, we wonder if we’re headed toward a waterfall.

I first read these words when the book was released, and readily identified with them. Over the 20+ years since, I think they are even more prophetic.

Here is how Strauss and Howe set up this book:

At the core of modern history lies this remarkable pattern: Over the past five centuries, Anglo-American society has entered a new era – a new turning – every two decades or so. At the start of each turning, people change how they feel about themselves, the culture, the nation, and the future. Turnings come in cycles of four. Each cycle spans the length of a long human life, roughly eighty to one hundred years, a unit of time the ancients called the speculum. Together, the four turnings of the speculum comprise history’s seasonal rhythm of growth, maturation, entropy, and destruction:

  • The First Turning is a High, an upbeat era of strengthening institutions and weakening individualism, when a new civic order implants and the old values regime decays.
  • The Second Turning is an Awakening, a passionate era of spiritual upheaval, when the civil order comes under attack from a new values regime.
  • The Third Turning is an Unraveling, a downcast er a strengthening individualism and weakening institutions, when the old civic order decays and the new values regime implants.
  • The Fourth Turning is a Crisis, a decisive era of secular upheaval, when the new values regime propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one.

Each turning comes with its own identifiable mood. Always, these mood shifts catch people by surprise.

Strauss and Howe label The Fourth Turning as a book that turns history into prophecy, taking you on a journey through the confluence of social time and human life.

Part One – Seasons – Acquiring new tools for understanding self, life, family, society, and civilization. Learn about the cycles of life, generational archetypes, turnings, and history.

Part Two – Turnings – Revisit post-World War II American history from the perspective of turnings and archetypes. Gain new insight about why the first three turnings of the current Millennial Saeculum have evolved as they have. Read why this saecular journey must culminate in a Fourth Turning and what is likely to happen when it does.

Part Three – Preparations – Explore what you and the nation can do to brace for the coming Crisis. Learn how, by applying the principles of seasonality, we can steer our destiny.

An appreciation for history is never more important than at times when a saecular winter is forecast. In the Fourth Turning, we can expect to encounter personal and public choices akin to the harshest ever faced by ancestral generations. We would do well to learn from their experience, viewed through the prism of cyclical time. Through much of the Third Turning, we have managed to postpone the reckoning. But history warns that we can’t defer it beyond the next bend in time.


Part of a series looking at history and future through the lens of generations


The History of America’s Future

Sometime in the early 1990s, I became aware of a new book by William Strauss and Neil Howe, entitled Generations: The History of America’s Future, from 1584 to 2069. As a student of history, I eagerly dove into the book, studied it, and have revisited it often in the thirty years since.

In Generations, the authors speculate the history of America as a succession of generational biographies, beginning in 1584 and encompassing everyone through the children of today. Their bold theory is that each generation belongs to one of four types, and that these types repeat sequentially in a fixed pattern. The vision of Generations allows us to plot a recurring cycle in American history – a cycle of spiritual awakenings and secular crises – from the founding colonists through today and well into this middle of this century.

Generations come in cycles. Just as history produces generations, so too do generations produce history.

William Strauss and Neil Howe

From the book, a brief description of the four cycles:

Strauss and Howe labeled the four generational types Prophet, Nomad, Hero, and Artist. With one exception, they have always recurred in a fixed order. During a spiritual awakening, Prophets are moving into rising adulthood while Nomads are appearing as children; during a secular crisis, Heroes are moving into rising adulthood while Artists are appearing as children. Later in life, these generations trigger another social moment and thus keep the cycle turning.

The first and third types are what we call “dominant” in public life – Prophets through redefining the inner world of values and culture, and Heroes through rebuilding the outer world of technology and institutions. The other two types are “recessive” in public life, checking the excesses of their more powerful neighbors – Nomads as pragmatists, Artists as ameliorators.

The passage of four generations, Prophets through Artists, completes one full generational cycle over the course of four, twenty-two year phases of life (a total duration of roughly ninety years). From the 1584 Puritan birth year forward, the authors traced five such cycles through American history – of which three (Colonial, Revolutionary, and Civil War) are fully ancestral, a waning fourth (Great Power) comprises the eldest 28 percent of the American population at the beginning of 1991 (when the book was released), and an emerging fifth (Millennial – the name of the cycle, not the name of the generational cohort) includes the youngest 72 percent. Within these cycles, we identify eighteen generations, from John Winthrop’s Puritans to Jessica McClure’s Millennials – and a recurring pattern of awakenings and crises.

Keep in mind that this was written in 1991.

So, here we are in late 2020, and what does the history of America’s future look like?

From above: during a secular crisis, Heroes are moving into rising adulthood while Artists are appearing as children.

That would be today’s Millennials moving into rising adulthood, and Gen Z appearing as children and teenagers.

So, according to Strauss and Howe, a secular crisis looms.

That pretty much describes 2020, don’t you think?

Here is where the life cycle can help. The story of civilization seldom moves in a straight line, but is rich with curves, oscillations, and mood shifts. The ebb and flow of history often reflect the ebb and flow of generations, each with a different age location, peer personality, and lifecycle story. By viewing history along the generational diagonal, by searching the cycle for behavioral clues, we can apply the mirror of recurring human experience to gaze around the corner of current trends and say something instructive about the decades to come.

William Strauss and Neil Howe

Here’s a timeline visualization of the generational cohorts:

What do you think?

Looking ahead: more ideas from Strauss and Howe, a look back (and today?) to the Gilded Age, and more!

Inspired and adapted from Generations: The History of American’s Future, 1584 to 2069

Hocus Pocus Bewitches a New Generation

A Lesson in Culture Transfer from One Generation to the Next

When it first hit theaters in 1993, Hocus Pocus performed poorly at the box office and with critics. However, thanks to annual replays on cable and strong video/DVD sales, a core fan group kept it alive over the years.

When the Disney Halloween classic was released to theaters earlier this month, it quickly rose through the ranks to become 2020’s biggest box office. Granted, the numbers are tiny compared to pre-COVID box office totals, but people are still going to theaters and strange things are happening.

Which is totally appropriate for Hocus Pocus, a bonafide 90s classic that children of that decade – now parents – are introducing to their children.

And by the way, that last sentence describes my two older kids – born in 1981 and 1984.

They first saw Hocus Pocus in theaters when released, later on VHS, and for a few years now, rewatch it every year on DVD or streaming.

Now, they are introducing it to a new generation – my grandchildren.

The movie’s unexpected success at the box office is impressive since it is widely available for fans to rent or buy and stream on various platforms; it’s free on Disney+; and it has aired on Disney’s “Freeform” as well.

There’s even a book about it – Hocus Pocus in Focus, by Aaron Wallace. My daughter and her husband – born in the late 80’s – devoured it when it came out, talked about it with their friends, and now viewing the film on Disney+ is evidently a big deal among their friends.

Of course, with Disney involved, you know what comes next – a sequel.

Bette Midler, who played Winnie Sanderson in the original, recently confirmed that she, along with co-stars Sarah Jessica Parker (Sarah Sanderson) and Kathy Najimy (Mary Sanderson) will all be returning as the Sanderson sisters for the second Hocus Pocus movie.

The sequel will be coming to Disney+ at an undesignated date in the future.

As I was researching different sources for this post, it occurred to me that I have stumbled upon a whole new thread of generational research – the transfer of culture from one generation to the next.

Immediately, I thought of the Disney Company. Certainly, my Disney fanaticism was fully developed in the last couple of decades – but I was introduced to it by my parents. First, through movies: my first movie seen in a theater (1964), and my favorite Disney movie even today, is Mary Poppins. Then, my father, as a Gulf gas station owner, was part of a Gulf-Disney marketing campaign throughout the mid to late 60s. We received regular promotional items, like magazines and record albums (which I still have!), which his customers eagerly snatched up.

When my wife and I became parents (four times, from 1981 – 1992), the introduction of Disney movies through first theaters then VHS tapes was a regular part of family entertainment. It continued with the shift from a cable channel to DVDs then streaming services.

As our children became parents, they did (and are doing) the same: Disney entertainment is a regular part of their lives, especially with the advent of the Disney+ streaming service.

In 2016, my wife and I brought this to a new level: a week-long family vacation for all 15 members of our family to Walt Disney World.

From viewing movies to visiting theme parks to sharing our Disney-related gifts across birthdays and other times, the Adams family culture had been deeply imbedded with a Disney imprint.

In my childhood, that meant one thing: Disney. To my children and grandchildren, though, it’s much more:

  • Walt Disney (movies, cable channel, TV shows, theme parks, cruise line)
  • ABC
  • ESPN
  • The Muppets
  • Pixar
  • Marvel
  • Lucasfilm
  • 21st Century Fox
  • Disney+ (I list this separately because of the HUGE impact it will have in the future).
  • and many more!

Here’s a graphical representation of the above:

You want to talk about the transfer of culture from one generation to the next and the next?

Class is now open!

The Changing of Intergenerational Dynamics

People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.

Judge Taylor in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

People are blind to the unexpected, the unusual, the periphery.

That’s all 2020 has been.

We’re at an unprecedented juncture in history: several generations of relatively similar size are sharing the stage and competing for influence. Generations matter because they behave in specific ways related both to when they came of age and to their situation at the current moment. “The creation of a world view is the work of a generation rather than of an individual,” wrote novelist John Dos Passos. “But we each of us, for better or for worse, add our brick to the edifice.”

I’m beginning a deep dive into current and future intergenerational dynamics, and the six books below are my starting point.

The Fourth Turning, William Strauss and Neil Howe

William Strauss and Neil Howe will change the way you see the world—and your place in it. With blazing originality, The Fourth Turning illuminates the past, explains the present, and reimagines the future. Most remarkably, it offers an utterly persuasive prophecy about how America’s past will predict its future.

Strauss and Howe base this vision on a provocative theory of American history. The authors look back five hundred years and uncover a distinct pattern: Modern history moves in cycles, each one lasting about the length of a long human life, each composed of four eras—or “turnings”—that last about twenty years and that always arrive in the same order. In The Fourth Turning, the authors illustrate these cycles using a brilliant analysis of the post-World War II period.

First comes a High, a period of confident expansion as a new order takes root after the old has been swept away. Next comes an Awakening, a time of spiritual exploration and rebellion against the now-established order. Then comes an Unraveling, an increasingly troubled era in which individualism triumphs over crumbling institutions. Last comes a Crisis—the Fourth Turning—when society passes through a great and perilous gate in history. Together, the four turnings comprise history’s seasonal rhythm of growth, maturation, entropy, and rebirth.

The Fourth Turning offers bold predictions about how all of us can prepare, individually and collectively, for America’s next rendezvous with destiny.

Bowling Alone, Robert D. Putnam

Twenty years, ago, Robert D. Putnam made a seemingly simple observation: once we bowled in leagues, usually after work; but no longer. This seemingly small phenomenon symbolized a significant social change that became the basis of the acclaimed bestseller, Bowling Alone, which The Washington Post called “a very important book” and Putnam, “the de Tocqueville of our generation.”

Bowling Alone surveyed in detail Americans’ changing behavior over the decades, showing how we had become increasingly disconnected from family, friends, neighbors, and social structures, whether it’s with the PTA, church, clubs, political parties, or bowling leagues. In the revised edition of his classic work, Putnam shows how our shrinking access to the “social capital” that is the reward of communal activity and community sharing still poses a serious threat to our civic and personal health, and how these consequences have a new resonance for our divided country today. He includes critical new material on the pervasive influence of social media and the internet, which has introduced previously unthinkable opportunities for social connection—as well as unprecedented levels of alienation and isolation.

At the time of its publication, Putnam’s then-groundbreaking work showed how social bonds are the most powerful predictor of life satisfaction, and how the loss of social capital is felt in critical ways, acting as a strong predictor of crime rates and other measures of neighborhood quality of life, and affecting our health in other ways. While the ways in which we connect, or become disconnected, have changed over the decades, his central argument remains as powerful and urgent as ever: mending our frayed social capital is key to preserving the very fabric of our society.

The Gilded Age, Alan Axelrod

The Gilded Age—the name coined by Mark Twain to refer to the period of rapid economic growth in America between the 1870s and 1900—offers some intriguing parallels to our own time. Prolific historian Alan Axelrod tackles this subject in a fresh way, exploring “this intense era in all its dimensions. . . . This book will reveal it . . . as, truly, the overture of the ‘American Century.’” He also looks at how it presaged our current era, which many are calling the “Second Gilded Age.” Photographs, political cartoons, engravings, news clippings, and other ephemera help bring this fascinating period into focus.

Zconomy, Jason Dorsey and Denise Villa

Gen Z changes everything. Today’s businesses are not built to sell and market the way Gen Z shops and buys, or to recruit and employ Gen Z the way they find and keep jobs. Leaders need answers now as gen Z is the fastest growing generation of employees and the most important group of consumer trendsetters. 

The companies that quickly and comprehensively adapt to Gen Z thinking will be the winners for the next twenty years. Those that don’t will be the losers or become extinct.  Zconomy is the comprehensive survival guide on how leaders must understand and embrace Generation Z. 

Researched and written by Dr. Denise Villa and Jason Dorsey from The Center for Generational Kinetics, the insights in Zconomy are based on their extensive research, they’ve led more than 60 generational studies, and their work with more than 500 companies around the world.

In Zconomy, Dr. Villa and Dorsey answer: Who is Gen Z? What do employers, marketers, and sales leaders need to know? And, most importantly, what should leaders do now?

This is the critical moment for leaders to understand and adapt to Gen Z or become irrelevant. Gen Z is already reshaping the world of business and this change is only going to accelerate. Zconomy is the definitive manual that will prepare any executive, manager, entrepreneur, HR or marketing professional to successfully unlock the powerful potential of this emerging generation at this pivotal time.  

The Upswing, Robert D. Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett

Deep and accelerating inequality; unprecedented political polarization; vitriolic public discourse; a fraying social fabric; public and private narcissism—Americans today seem to agree on only one thing: This is the worst of times.

But we’ve been here before. During the Gilded Age of the late 1800s, America was highly individualistic, starkly unequal, fiercely polarized, and deeply fragmented, just as it is today. However as the twentieth century opened, America became—slowly, unevenly, but steadily—more egalitarian, more cooperative, more generous; a society on the upswing, more focused on our responsibilities to one another and less focused on our narrower self-interest. Sometime during the 1960s, however, these trends reversed, leaving us in today’s disarray.

In a sweeping overview of more than a century of history, drawing on his inimitable combination of statistical analysis and storytelling, Robert Putnam analyzes a remarkable confluence of trends that brought us from an “I” society to a “We” society and then back again. He draws inspiring lessons for our time from an earlier era, when a dedicated group of reformers righted the ship, putting us on a path to becoming a society once again based on community. Engaging, revelatory, and timely, this is Putnam’s most ambitious work yet, a fitting capstone to a brilliant career.

2030, Mauro F. Guillén

Once upon a time, the world was neatly divided into prosperous and backward economies. Babies were plentiful, workers outnumbered retirees, and people aspiring towards the middle class yearned to own homes and cars. Companies didn’t need to see any further than Europe and the United States to do well. Printed money was legal tender for all debts, public and private. We grew up learning how to “play the game,” and we expected the rules to remain the same as we took our first job, started a family, saw our children grow up, and went into retirement with our finances secure.

That world―and those rules―are over.

By 2030, a new reality will take hold, and before you know it:

– There will be more grandparents than grandchildren

– The middle-class in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa will outnumber the US and Europe combined

– The global economy will be driven by the non-Western consumer for the first time in modern history

– There will be more global wealth owned by women than men

– There will be more robots than workers

– There will be more computers than human brains

– There will be more currencies than countries

All these trends, currently underway, will converge in the year 2030 and change everything you know about culture, the economy, and the world.

According to Mauro F. Guillen, the only way to truly understand the global transformations underway―and their impacts―is to think laterally. That is, using “peripheral vision,” or approaching problems creatively and from unorthodox points of view. Rather than focusing on a single trend―climate-change or the rise of illiberal regimes, for example―Guillen encourages us to consider the dynamic inter-play between a range of forces that will converge on a single tipping point―2030―that will be, for better or worse, the point of no return.

2030 is both a remarkable guide to the coming changes and an exercise in the power of “lateral thinking,” thereby revolutionizing the way you think about cataclysmic change and its consequences.


Look for more in the coming weeks.

To Better Understand Gen Z, Take a Look Back

As a reminder for everyone, the “context” around you affects everything else.

In the case of this post:

  • My wife and I are Baby Boomers (born in late 50s)
  • My four children and their spouses are GenXers and Millenials (born between 1981 and 1992)
  • My six grandchildren are Gen Zers (born between 2008 and 2020)

Generational cohorts (like the above) are a source of never-ending curiosity for me. From being in the largest group (Boomers) to having kids at the end of one cohort (Gen X) to the beginning of the next (Millenials) to having grandchildren born in the middle of the next cohort (Gen Z), just observing and interacting with my immediate family has been fascinating.

Increasingly though, I am being drawn to GenZ; specifically, this generations’s defining moment.

And to no surprise, virtually everyone is pointing to the COVID-19 pandemic as the defining moment of GenZ.

As The Center for Generational Kinetics defines it, a defining moment:

Takes place at the right time in a generation’s coming of age experience. The event or external influence needs to occur at a formative time in a generation’s coming of age experience, which is usually an age range from childhood through early adulthood. The key is the generation needs to be old enough to deeply experience the event while at the same be in a young enough life stage where it can significantly impact their views, beliefs, and attitude toward their world and their future.

Creates a powerful, unforgettable emotional impact, usually tied to fear and uncertainty caused by the event and its aftermath. These moments tend to make a generation feel vulnerable and look at the world differently than they did before, such as the way 9/11 impacted Millennials or how the JFK assassination affected Baby Boomers. 

More from CGK:

For Gen Z, COVID-19 has upended almost every aspect of their life. For younger members of Gen Z, they no longer go to school with classmates, see their friends in-person, or work part-time jobs. Instead, they are confined to their home, with a parent or other family members, and trying to continue their education at a time when many schools do not have an effective distance learning program. These same Gen Zers are seeing their parents struggle financially, including job losses, inability to pay rent, and tension between adults within their household as everyone deals with this new reality and the close quarters of being quarantined.

Gen Zers from the class of 2020 in high school saw standardized testing canceled, no graduation ceremony, uncertainty about college options, financial pressure, and no ability to play competitive sports or drive academic achievements or progress that could change their future. These Gen Zers are telling us they worry if college will even take place in the fall. Will they move out of their family’s home this year? If college is all online, how will they have a traditional college experience? While the COVID-19 experience can vary widely based on our interviews with Gen Zers from different socioeconomic, geographic, and other factors, the result continues to be a real question mark about what will happen after their senior year of high school.

At the same time, Gen Zers who are in the workforce are disproportionately in the service industry, hourly workers, in entry-level jobs, or are young professionals as they are typically on the very front end of their careers. These same Gen Zers are often the first to get laid off or furloughed as many industries contract. Gen Z can also suffer from the “last hired, first fired” mantra of years past. Put all this together, and Gen Zers already in the workforce are feeling a massive reset at exactly the time they should be starting to build their independence and self-reliance. 

Gen Zers who are in college are often experiencing a hybrid of the newly upended work and education reality. Some colleges and trade schools have moved quickly to cancel all on-campus classes and move to online learning while others are struggling under the weight and scale of the change— as well as the practical limitations of specific learning activities, such as scientific lab access. Add to this mix the unknown about whether or not colleges will refund room and board, whether international students who had to go home will be able to return, and the overnight change of having tremendous freedom taken away as they move back in with their family. There is a lot for Gen Z college students to worry about besides just finishing their classes.

On top of Gen Z’s work and school impacts from COVID-19, add all of these significant stressors: the heavy external influence of daily death counts and mortality rates, fear of losing their parents, grandparents, or friends, and the endless social media echoing how bad the world is around them. It’s easy to see why COVID-19 is a Generation Defining Moment for Gen Z—and the impact gets deeper the longer the event is extended and the more uncertainty, fear, and difficulty it creates. 

from “The State of Gen Z 2019-2020,” The Center for Generational Kinetics

Wow – is that heavy, or what?

And yet, I have reason to hope. Reason based on the fact that while we may live in a very tumultuous time, and uncertainty is a constant, all this is not new.

It’s highly likely that some of the best understanding of the future can be gained by studying the past.

And that past reveals – going back hundreds of years, and a couple dozen generational cohorts – is that generations have a cyclical pattern.

What Gen Z is experiencing today – not the specifics, but broad understandings – can be unlocked by looking at a prior generation.

The farther you look back, the farther forward you are likely to see.

Winston Churchill

My grandchildren may well be shaped by circumstances and events like their great-grandparents, born in 1925-1942.

More to come!

Looking Through the Generational Lens

One of the consistent lenses I use to view life through is that of generations.

It comes as a natural part of my curiosity of life, as I am interacting with 5 generational cohorts in my family: my parents and in-laws are from the GI Generation; I am a Baby Boomer; my oldest son and one daughter-in-law are Gen Xers; my other three children, two daughters-in-law and one son-in-law are Millennials; and my 6 grandchildren are Gen Zers. Even though we are spread out across three states (and occasionally, around the world) and do not get to interact as much as we would like, the personal level of generational differences is obvious.

Take the same dynamics as above – 5 generations – and move them into the institutional world, say a church setting, and it won’t be long till you have a generational collision.

If you are a leader in ChurchWorld, how do you deal with the fact that, for the first time in our history, we can have five separate and distinct generations working alongside each other in our churches? The 5th generation, born since the mid-2000’s, is not far behind in taking up a leadership role.

Generational differences are important, but it is all too easy to stereotype these differences. The only way we’ll ever build bridges between generations is to stop stereotyping and get to know who these generations really are and why they are that way.

An interesting book on the subject: Sticking Points – How to Get 4 Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart, by Haydn Shaw. Here’s a teaser:

For the first time in history, we have four different generations in the workplace (and five in families). These generations might as well be from different countries, so different are their cultural styles and preferences. Of the four approaches organizations can take to blending the generations, only one of them works today. Focusing on the “what” escalates tensions, while focusing on the “why” pulls teams together. Knowing the twelve sticking points can allow teams to label tension points and work through them—even anticipate and preempt them. Implementing the five steps to cross-generational leadership can lead to empowering, not losing, key people.

How many different generations do you regularly interact with?

How’s that going?