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

How to Problem Solve with Design Thinking

Design isn’t just choosing the right images and fonts for your next website revision. It’s a problem-solving process that incorporates the needs of guests, team members, and partners in your mission. It’s a way of working that creates and refines real-world situations.

Design is the secret weapon of organizations that gives them a strategic advantage in figuring out what services their guests need and in defining the exact characteristics of every guest interaction. Design helps you understand how a guest accesses your website, what a guest is likely to do as they approach your campus, and gives you clues about creating a welcoming environment.

Design is the most important discipline that you’ve probably never heard of.

The right Guest Experience changes, implemented the right way, won’t just fall into your lap. You must actively design them. This requires learning – and then sticking to – the steps in a human-centered design process.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Design Thinking for the Greater Good by Jeanne Liedtka, Randy Salzman, and Daisy Azer

Facing especially wicked problems, social sector organizations are searching for powerful new methods to understand and address them. Design Thinking for the Greater Good goes in depth on both the how of using new tools and the why. As a way to reframe problems, ideate solutions, and iterate toward better answers, design thinking is already well established in the commercial world. Through ten stories of struggles and successes in fields such as health care, education, agriculture, transportation, social services, and security, the authors show how collaborative creativity can shake up even the most entrenched bureaucracies―and provide a practical roadmap for readers to implement these tools.

The design thinkers Jeanne Liedtka, Randy Salzman, and Daisy Azer explore how major agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services and the Transportation and Security Administration in the United States, as well as organizations in Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom, have instituted principles of design thinking. In each case, these groups have used the tools of design thinking to reduce risk, manage change, use resources more effectively, bridge the communication gap between parties, and manage the competing demands of diverse stakeholders. Along the way, they have improved the quality of their products and enhanced the experiences of those they serve. These strategies are accessible to analytical and creative types alike, and their benefits extend throughout an organization. This book will help today’s leaders and thinkers implement these practices in their own pursuit of creative solutions that are both innovative and achievable.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

In today’s increasingly fast-paced and unpredictable environment, church leaders need to be involved in design thinking more than ever. Design is all about action, and churches too often get stuck at the talking stage.

Face it – despite all our planning and analyzing and controlling, the typical church’s track record at translating its rhetoric into results is not impressive.

Moments matter. And what an opportunity we miss when we leave them to chance!

  • All it takes is a bit of insight and forethought.
  • All it takes is for you to think like a designer.

One of the biggest contributions of design thinking is to hold us in the problem space long enough to develop the kind of deeper insights into the problem that foster more creative ideas later on.

Design thinking is a problem-solving approach with a unique set of qualities: it is human-centered, possibility driven, option focused, and iterative.

A learning mindset, empathetic understanding of stakeholders, and an experimental approach to solving problems is what design thinking’s methodology and tool kit are all about.

How is design thinking going to do this? By providing the tools to answer a simple series of questions:

    • What is? explores current reality.

    • What if? generates ideas.

    • What wows? finds the sweet spot.

    • What works? launches and learns.

These four questions build bridges to more innovative solutions via a systematic, data-driven approach to creativity. This might sound like an oxymoron, but we don’t believe it is. By breaking the process into four questions, potential design thinkers can explore the “how to” in a way that feels safe and structured to both leaders who think in details and those who thrive in innovation and creativity.

These strategies are accessible to analytical and creative types alike, and their benefits extend throughout an organization.

Jeanne Liedtka, Randy Salzman, and Daisy Azer Design Thinking for the Greater Good

A NEXT STEP

As a way to reframe problems, ideate solutions, and iterate toward better answers, design thinking shows how collaborative creativity can shake up even the most entrenched bureaucracies, providing a practical roadmap to innovative, achievable solutions.

Use the four-question design thinking process listed above, think of another future Guest Experience action you would like to implement, and write it on a chart tablet.

On four separate chart tablets, write the four questions. Spend at least thirty minutes discussing each question, and write down notes and highlights of each discussion on the appropriate chart tablet.

At the end of the discussion, select the top three items from each of the four questions. As a team, decide how you will proceed with this action, who will lead the effort, and when the target launch day is. Turn them loose on the “how.”


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

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


How to Show Appreciation to Your Team by Building Two-Way Respect

As the leader of a team of three – or three hundred – do you think your team feels appreciated by their coworkers – and you?

Studies have shown that while we expect to get paid for the work we do, and we would all like to make more money, the number one factor in job satisfaction is not the amount of pay but whether or not the individual feels appreciated and valued for the work they do.

There is something deep within the human spirit that longs for appreciation. Without a sense of being valued by supervisors and coworkers, it can be easy to feel like you are a part of a machine or just a number.

While communicating appreciation to employees and colleagues may sound easy, there is more to it than just saying “thank you.”

THE QUICK SUMMARY

Reward and recognition programs can be costly and inefficient, and they primarily reward employees who are already highly engaged and productive performers. Worse still, these programs actually decrease employee motivation because they can make individual recognition, rather than the overall success of the team, the goal. Yet many businesses turn to these measures first – unaware of a better alternative. So, when it comes to changing your organizational culture, carrots and sticks don’t work!

What does work is Dr. Paul Marciano’s acclaimed RESPECT model, which gives you specific, low-cost, turnkey solutions and action plans– based on seven key drivers of employee engagement that are proven and supported by decades of research and practice―that will empower you to assess, troubleshoot, and resolve engagement issues in the workplace:

Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work delivers the same proven resources and techniques that have enabled trainers, executives, managers, and owners at operations ranging from branches of the United States government to Fortune 500 corporations to twenty-person outfits to realize demonstrable gains in employee productivity and job satisfaction.

When you give a little RESPECT you get a more effective organization, with reduced turnover and absenteeism and employees at all levels who are engaged, focused, and committed to succeed as a team. In short, you get maximum ROI from your organization’s most powerful resource: its people!

image

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Author Paul Marciano believes that as our level of respect grows for an individual, so does our level of engagement. Conversely, when we lose respect, we disengage. Therefore, it is difficult, if not impossible, to feel a sense of commitment to a person, team or organization that one disrespects.

Marciano goes on to say that the essence of being a powerful and effective leader is having loyal followers who willingly do what is asked of them. Such real and enduring power cannot be demanded or coerced. It comes from a lifetime of quietly caring about, respecting, and serving others.

In other words, a culture of respect.

The RESPECTTM Model is an actionable philosophy base on the simple principle that when people are treated with respect they engage and work harder to achieve the goals of the organization.

The RESPECTTM Model is defined by seven critical drivers that influence an employee’s internal assessment of respect and subsequent level of engagement.

Recognition: Employees feel acknowledged and appreciated for their contributions. Supervisors regularly recognize deserving team members, and people are rewarded based on their work performance.

Empowerment: Supervisors provide employees with the tools, resources, and training to succeed. Employees experience high levels of autonomy and are encouraged to take risks. Supervisors take the initiative to communicate with employees and ensure that they are equipped to succeed, not fail.

Supportive feedback: Supervisors provide employees with timely specific feedback in a supportive, sincere, and constructive manner. Feedback is delivered for the purpose of reinforcement and improvement – never to embarrass or punish.

Partnering: Employees are treated as business partners and actively collaborate in business-making decisions. They receive financial information, understand the big picture, and are given wide latitude in decision-making. Supervisors serve as advocates for their employees’ development and growth. Team members and departments actively communicate and share information with one another.

Expectations: Supervisors ensure that goals, objectives, and business priorities are clearly established and communicated. Employees know precisely the standards by which their performance is evaluated and are held accountable for meeting their performance expectations.

Consideration: Supervisors, managers, and team members demonstrate consideration, caring, and thoughtfulness toward one another. Supervisors actively seek to understand employees’ opinions and concerns and are understanding and supportive when employees experience personal problems.

Trust: Supervisors demonstrate trust and confidence in employees’ skills and abilities. Employees trust that their supervisor will do right by them. Leaders keep their promises and commitments and, in return, are trusted by employees.

Paul Marciano, Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with Principles of RESPECTTM

A NEXT STEP

Author Paul Marciano believes that people follow leaders they respect and by whom they are respected. Respected leaders inspire followers to engage in the work that needs to be done to fulfill the mission and vision of the organization. Many leaders, however, assume that respect should be automatically bestowed upon them based on their position.

In truth, leaders must earn respect by treating those around them with respect every day.

Using the RESPECT acronym above, spend focused time reflecting on how you as a leader are accomplishing – or not – each specific action listed. After reflection, rate yourself on a scale of one to five where one equals “This is missing in my leadership” and five equals “I consistently demonstrate this action.”

For every four or five rating, congratulate yourself in keeping up the high standard, but also consider how you might become complacent. List ways to become even better in these areas.

For each three rating, you are sitting on the fence. Review the actions, and list things you can do that will immediately put you on the way to a four and maybe even a five rating – and do them.

For each one and two rating, list actions that will help you move in a positive direction. Challenge yourself to implement at least one action in each of the areas each week, in order to be a leader who respects your team.

After a two-month period of taking the above actions, revisit the lists you have made, and note your progress.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

Happy 80th Birthday, Fantasia!

Fantasia is a 1940 American animated film produced by Walt Disney and released by Walt Disney Productions on November 13, 1940. It is the third Disney animated feature film, and consists of eight animated segments set to pieces of classical music conducted by Leopold Stokowski, seven of which are performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Music critic and composer Deems Taylor acts as the film’s emcee, providing a live-action introduction to each animated segment.

Disney settled on the film’s concept in 1938 as work neared completion on The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, an elaborate Silly Symphonies short designed as a comeback role for Mickey Mouse, who had declined in popularity. As production costs grew higher than what it could earn, Disney decided to include the short in a feature-length film with other segments set to classical pieces. The soundtrack was recorded using multiple audio channels and reproduced with Fantasound, a pioneering sound reproduction system that made Fantasia the first commercial film shown in stereophonic sound.

Of course, I have several books about the movie, published in 1940.

This is THE book of Fantasia – Walt Disney’s new full-length feature production. Just as the movie Fantasia represents an entirely new departure in the art of the motion picture, this book is a unique publishing venture. It is the first Disney book designed for adults, the first comprehensive record of Walt Disney’s revolutionary contribution to contemporary art – painting in motion.

Fantasia is a sort of symphony between book covers – a new and exhilarating form of entertainment for the printed page – conceived by Walt Disney and worked out by him in collaboration with a distinguished company of writers, artists, and musicians.

In a profession that has been an unending voyage of discovery in the realms of color, sound, and motion, Fantasia represents our most exciting adventure.  At last, we have found a way to use in our medium the great music of all times and the flood of new ideas which it inspires.      

Walt Disney

Here are the other 1940 books about Fantasia: the movie premier booklet, and several books about individual pieces within the movie.

My favorite part of Fantasia, though, is The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. As noted above, it was originally intended to be a Silly Symphony animation short to revive interest in Mickey Mouse. Instead, it became the centerpiece of Fantasia, and the Mickey Mouse character most-recognized of all time.

A 1940 book released with the film

Every time I visit a Walt Disney property where Sorcerer Mickey “lives,” I stop by for a quick visit.

My last visit in early February 2020

Sorcerer Mickey has been very visible around the world over the years: character appearances (as above), park attractions (Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Fantasmic, Mickey and the Magical Map, Starlight Dreams, the World of Color), and video games. His most recent feature film appearance was a cameo in Ralph Breaks the Internet.

My personal favorite appearance of Sorcerer Mickey was in the logo of Walt Disney Imagineering from 1986 – 2019.

With the launch of Disney+ and a greatly-increased interest in Imagineering through the series, The Imagineering Story, Sorcerer Mickey was dropped from the logo design.

Tonight I’ll be watching Fantasia to celebrate its 80th birthday – and of course, who do they choose to illustrate the movie?

Follow These Five Steps to Deliver a Great Guest Experience

First impressions of your campus and facility last.

First impressions are automatic – taken in and recorded by our senses, often registered for later recall. More often than not, they make an immediate impact on our decision to participate and to return – or not. We may not agree with it or not, but the consumer mentality of the world we live in has moved full force into our church world. Our churches don’t compete with the “world” so much as the experiences of the world.

As you live your life day in and out, you are living the life of a consumer.

  • Where do you consume?
  • Where do you shop?
  • Who provides service for you?
  • Most importantly, why?

You may stop at your favorite coffee shop for a good cup of coffee – and the conversations you have with the barista and the other regulars in the shop. Your supermarket always has good value and a wide selection of the food your family likes. Clothes from a particular shop just fit better – and the sales associates are always helpful with suggestions. The point is, you have established expectations of each place and the people who work there.

Is it any different for Guests and attendees at your church?

If your goal is to create a space and an experience that will positively impact people, you must first plan and evaluate it from the perspective of its quality. You start that process by examining the daily places and routines in the offices, retail, and recreation spaces of the people you are trying to reach. The homes they live in, the offices they work in and the stores they shop in all communicate a level of expectation they have for their space.

Close your eyes for a moment and think about the last time you truly had a great experience with a company as a consumer, an experience that captured your heart, soul, mind, and spirit. What about it was special? Call it “X” – that “je ne sais quoi” that makes something so special.

Here’s another unique retail establishments that are game changers in the customer experience world.

But what do these organizations – and others who are providing exceptional customer services – have to do with your church’s Guest Experience?

I happen to think they are a timeless reminder that experience still matters.

THE QUICK SUMMARY

Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a beloved deli with some of the most loyal clientele around. It has been praised for its products and service in media outlets far and wide, including the New York Times, Men’s Journal, Inc. Magazine, Esquire, Atlantic Monthly, USA Today, and Fast Company. And what started out as a small deli has grown to a flourishing restaurant, catering service, bakery, mail-order operation, creamery, and training business.

Booming business and loyal customers are proof enough that the Zingerman’s team knows a thing or two about customer service. Now in Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service, co-founder Ari Weinzweig shares the unique Zingerman method of treating customers, giving the reader step-by-step instructions on what to teach staff, how to train them, how to implement the training, how to measure their success, and finally, how to reward performance.


A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Seemingly small things like going the extra mile, remembering customer’s names, noticing a nice order and saying “thanks,” taking time to show a new customer around our place of business – those individual acts are still the things that make great service a reality.

Great service is still given – and will always be given – one customer at a time. They come in, are engaged, and are won over one by one.

In terms of translating what we’ve believed from the beginning into a model that genuinely works in the real world, there are five major parts to what we do. While many organizations do one part or the other, my belief is that all great service providers do all five well.

We Teach It

Without effective training, great service is just one more good idea that never really happens. We’re relentless about our service training. When someone finishes our training, they actually know what we expect with regard to service. And – through our classes, seminars, and training materials – we’ve given them a series of very tangible tools with which to make it happen. The more we teach it, the more effectively we can – and do – live it.

We Define It

Treating service as a generic, if desirable, concept isn’t going to help anyone improve the quality of their work. What helps is that we’ve given a clear definition of service – what we refer to as a “recipe” – that works.

We Live It

At the end of the day, this is what really counts. I think that what sets us apart is that after defining it and teaching it, we actually devote enormous energy to walking our talk. Mind you, we never get it perfect. But we constantly work at it, perfecting the alignment between the way we teach it, the way we define it, and the way we live it.

We Measure It

Service measurement provides the service world with the same sort of helpful data that financial statements provide you with for your money. Quite simply, measurement gives us a scorecard for service, a commonly shared language about how we’re doing, where we’re succeeding and where we’re falling short.

We Reward It

It’s imperative that we effectively recognize and reward those in our organizations who go out and give great service. Both formal and informal reward systems will go a long way toward helping to build the service-oriented culture and the effective service delivery we’re so committed to.

Ari Weinzweig, Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service

A NEXT STEP

Using the five ideas listed above, convene a team brainstorming session. Write each of the five ideas at the top of a chart tablet, one idea per chart tablet.

With a blue marker, list as many activities as you can that you and your teams are currently doing with that idea. Repeat for each of the five ideas.

With a green marker, list as many activities as you can that you and your teams would like to do with that idea. Repeat for each of the five ideas.

On each of the five chart tablets in blue (current), circle the top three actions that you can make better. Assign a champion to each, and ask them to develop a timeline for implementation.

On each of the five chart tablets in green (future), circle the top three actions that you would like to begin. Assign a champion to each, and ask them to develop a timeline for implementation.

Ask for monthly updates in each of the areas being worked on.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

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

Improve Your Appreciation by Accelerating Personal Connection

As the leader of a team of three – or three hundred – do you think your team feels appreciated by their coworkers – and you?

Studies have shown that while we expect to get paid for the work we do, and we would all like to make more money, the number one factor in job satisfaction is not the amount of pay but whether or not the individual feels appreciated and valued for the work they do.

There is something deep within the human spirit that longs for appreciation. Without a sense of being valued by supervisors and coworkers, it can be easy to feel like you are a part of a machine or just a number.

While communicating appreciation to employees and colleagues may sound easy, there is more to it than just saying “thank you.”

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek

Imagine a world where almost everyone wakes up inspired to go to work, feels trusted and valued during the day, then returns home feeling fulfilled. This is not a crazy, idealized notion. Today, in many successful organizations, great leaders create environments in which people naturally work together to do remarkable things.

In his work with organizations around the world, Simon Sinek noticed that some teams trust each other so deeply that they would literally put their lives on the line for each other. Other teams, no matter what incentives are offered, are doomed to infighting, fragmentation and failure. Why?

The answer became clear during a conversation with a Marine Corps general. “Officers eat last,” he said. Sinek watched as the most junior Marines ate first while the most senior Marines took their place at the back of the line. What’s symbolic in the chow hall is deadly serious on the battlefield: Great leaders sacrifice their own comfort–even their own survival–for the good of those in their care.
    
Too many workplaces are driven by cynicism, paranoia, and self-interest. But the best ones foster trust and cooperation because their leaders build what Sinek calls a “Circle of Safety” that separates the security inside the team from the challenges outside.

Sinek illustrates his ideas with fascinating true stories that range from the military to big business, from government to investment banking.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

According to author Simon Sinek, when we feel like we belong to a group and trust the people with whom we work, we naturally cooperate to face outside challenges and threats.

But when we do not have a sense of belonging, we are forced to invest time and energy to protect ourselves from each other, and in so doing, we inadvertently make ourselves more vulnerable to the outside threats and challenges.

Plus, with our attention facing inward, we will also miss outside opportunities. When we feel safe among the people with whom we work, the more likely we are to survive and thrive.

As leaders, how do we learn to know and trust our team?

Perhaps the most truly valuable thing we can do if we are to truly serve our constituents is to know them personally.

It may be impossible to know all your team in a large organization, but to know the name and details of the life of someone we are trying to help makes a huge difference.

Rule 1. Keep it real – bring people together

The added complications of the virtual world often mean we use the Internet as a means to expedite and simplify communication and the relationships we build. The ability to maintain distance, even complete anonymity, has made it easier to stop acting as humans should – with humanity.

Real, live human interaction is how we feel a part of something, develop trust, and have the capacity to feel for others.

Trust is not formed through a screen – it is formed across a table. There is no such thing as virtual trust.

Rule 2. Keep it manageable – obey Dunbar’s number

Oxford professor and anthropologist Robin Dunbar arrived at the conclusion that people simply maintain more than about 150 close relationships. That magical number is the number of close relationships we are naturally designed to manage. Any more than that starts to cause a break down if rigid social systems, or effective hierarchy and bureaucracy, are not implemented to help manage the scale.

When a leader is able to personally know everyone in the group, the responsibility for their care becomes personal. The leader starts to see those for whom they are responsible as if they were their own family, and likewise, those in the group start to express ownership of their leader.

Rule 3. Meet the people you help

As social animals, it is imperative for us to see the actual, tangible impact of our time and effort for our work to have meaning and for us to be motivated to do it even better. When we are able to physically see the positive impact of the decisions we make or the work we do, not only do we feel that our work was worth it, but it also inspires us to work harder and do more.

In other words, bosses telling us how important the work is, is nowhere near as powerful as us getting to see it ourselves.

Rule 4. Give them time, not just money

Money is an abstraction of tangible resources or human effort. Unlike the time and effort that people spend on something, it is what money represents that gives it its value. Someone who gives us a lot of money, as our brains would interpret their behavior, is not necessarily as valuable to our protection as someone willing to commit their time and energy to us.

What produces loyalty, that irrational willingness to commit to the organization even when offered more money elsewhere, is the feeling that the leaders of the company would be willing, when it matters, to sacrifice their time and energy to help us.

Rule 5. Be patient – the rule of seven days and seven years

Our world is one of impatience. A world of instant gratification. A world ruled by dopamine. Google can give us the answers we want now. We can buy online and get what we want now. We can send and receive information instantaneously. We have gotten used to getting what we want when we want it.

It takes time to get to know someone and build the trust required to sustain a relationship, personal or professional. There’s no hard data on exactly how long it takes to feel like we trust someone. I know it takes more than seven days and fewer than seven years. It is quicker for some and slower for others. No one knows exactly how long it takes, but it takes patience.

Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t

A NEXT STEP

Set aside a two-hour time block in your schedule. On each of five chart tablets, write one of the rules above at the top.

Spend twenty minutes on each value, writing a phrase or action that you can use to demonstrate this rule to your team. If needed, place an asterisk by actions that will need more time to develop.

After the five, twenty-minute sessions, use the final twenty minutes to go over the chart tablets and select the one, single most action for that rule that you can implement immediately – and make a pact with yourself to do so.

After one month of implementing this action, call your immediate team together to ask them if they have noticed any difference in your leadership style. If needed, prompt them with a brief comment about “appreciation.”

After a time of discussion with your team, encourage them to go through the same exercise personally, in order to implement the rules with their teams.

After three months, gather your team for a thirty-minute discussion on the “appreciation temperature” of your organization. Celebrate the successes, and challenge your team (and yourself) to keep the process moving forward.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

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!

How to Deliver an Exceptional Guest Experience by Design

It is relatively easy to provide a great Guest Experience occasionally. You know, those big holiday events or other special occasions.

But in order to create an exceptional Guest Experience, it is vital that you do this every time.

The only way to achieve a consistently exceptional Guest Experience is if the experiences are designed.

To design something means that it is deliberate, not an accident or luck. Deliberate is a strong, proactive word. Stop and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is our Guest Experience process deliberate?
  • Did my team deliberately set out to create and deliver an exceptional Guest Experience?
  • Is the outcome of the Guest Experience one that we have proactively designed?

By observation, research, and onsite studies in organizations of all sizes and types across the country, in many cases the Guest Experience is not deliberate – it is something that just happens.

Guest Experience leaders care about their guests. Many leaders understand guests and have some insight into their experiences and needs. Often, though, these same leaders struggle to turn insight into action.

Design isn’t just choosing the right images and fonts for your next website revision. It’s a problem-solving process that incorporates the needs of guests, team members, and partners in your mission. It’s a way of working that creates and refines real-world situations.

Design is the secret weapon of organizations that gives them a strategic advantage in figuring out what services their guests need and in defining the exact characteristics of every guest interaction. Design helps you understand how a guest accesses your website, what a guest is likely to do as they approach your campus, and gives you clues about creating a welcoming environment.

Design is the most important discipline that you’ve probably never heard of.

The right Guest Experience changes, implemented the right way, won’t just fall into your lap. You must actively design them. This requires learning – and then sticking to – the steps in a human-centered design process.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Outside In, by Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine

Customer experience is, quite simply, how your customers perceive their every interaction with your company. It’s a fundamental business driver. Here’s proof: over a recent five-year period during which the S&P 500 was flat, a stock portfolio of customer experience leaders grew twenty-two percent. 

In an age when customers have access to vast amounts of data about your company and its competitors, customer experience is the only sustainable source of competitive advantage. But how to excel at it? 

Based on fourteen years of research by the customer experience leaders at Forrester Research, Outside In offers a complete roadmap to attaining the experience advantage. It starts with the concept of the Customer Experience Ecosystem—proof that the roots of customer experience problems lie not just with customer-facing employees like your sales staff, but with behind-the-scenes employees like accountants, lawyers, and programmers, as well as the policies, processes, and technologies that all your employees use every day. Identifying and solving these problems has the potential to dramatically increase sales and decrease costs.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Organizations that want to produce a high-quality guest experience need to perform a set of sound, standard practices. Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine, in their book Outside In, have developed six high-level disciplines which can be translated into guest experiences: strategy, guest understanding, design, measurement, governance, and culture.

These disciplines represent the areas where organizations that are consistently exceptional at Guest Experiences excel.

Restating a comment from above, the only way to achieve a consistently exceptional Guest Experience is if the experiences are designed.

If you want to deliver an exceptional Guest Experience, you need to begin with the discipline of design.

The discipline of design is key because it lets organizations understand the current customer experience they provide, uncover opportunities for improvement, and track progress over time. It connects the dots starting with what needs to be done to improve customer experience, all the way to the benefits of what has been done.

The human-centered design process starts with research to understand guest needs and motivations. It’s all those activities in the discipline of understanding guests. Analysis is next – synthesizing the data into useful forms. The next phase is ideation, which is just what it sounds like – coming up with ideas. After that, it’s time to prototype – ranging from a simple redesigned guest survey to a full-scale mock-up of your typical guest experience on the weekend. Next, these prototypes are put into action with real people while you observe the results. Finally, you must document the features of the resulting product or service that has evolved.

The practices in the design discipline help organizations envision and then implement customer interactions that meet or exceed customer needs. It spans the complex systems of people, products, interfaces, services, and spaces that your customers encounter in physical locations, over the phone, or through digital spaces like websites and mobile apps.

Design spells the difference between a symphony orchestra performance and a garage band jam session. The orchestra performance is carefully arranged, rehearsed, and executed – just like the customer experience at top organizations. The jam session just sort of happens, with varying levels of quality – like what we’ve all encountered at companies we’ve stopped doing business with over time.

Design Practices

Follow a defined Guest Experience design process any time a new experience is introduced or an existing experience is changed in some way

Use guest understanding deliverables and insights to focus and define requirements for projects that affect Guest Experiences

Engage guests, team members, and partners as part of the experience design process

Use iterative ideation, prototyping, and evaluation as part of the experience design process

Identify the set of complex interdependencies among people, processes, and technologies that shape interactions with guests (the Guest Experience Ecosystem)

Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine, Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business

A NEXT STEP

At your next Guest Experience team leader’s meeting, make the discipline of design the primary topic.

First, write the six words in bold from the first paragraph above (research, analysis, ideation, prototype, action and document) down the left side of a chart tablet.

Next, come up with a single Guest Experience action you are not currently doing but would like to implement in the next six months, writing the action on the top of another chart tablet.

Now, walk through each of the six steps, writing down ideas or actions needed for each step. At this stage, you don’t have to fully develop the proposed action – you are just creating a “design criteria list” for follow up.

After you have exhausted all ideas, go back and circle no more than three items under each step, representing the most important ones to do.

Identify one leader and two additional members from your team to take the proposed action and run with it. Using both the six steps and the five “Design Practices” noted above, they will recruit additional team members as needed to follow the actions as outlined, and bring a ready-to-proceed recommendation back to the larger team for a decision.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 125, released August 2019.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<