All learning, personal, academic, social, or cultural is contextual. Those that share the same formative years share values that constitute an ‘age cohort’ or generation. American life expectancy now permits five living generations, and each of whose formative years are notably different.
To illustrate the importance of generational dynamics consider the Silent Generation born between 1927 and 1945 during the Great Depression, WW II, the beginning of the Cold War, and life in the suburbs. Core values include community, cooperation, struggle, sacrifice and national honor. The Silent Generation was reluctant to criticize organizational leadership and stewardship in a time of extreme patriotism.
The GenXer, born between 1965 and 1981 in a time of materialism and abundance are described as individualistic and diverse. This is the generation that saw one institution after another fail to deliver on their promises. They are first to experience the ‘race to the bottom’ of commercial radio and television and the advent of the personal computer. GenXers are described as unimpressed with authority, distrustful of institutions and carry a sense of disempowerment and disengagement.
While these profiles are gross generalizations they illustrate an important consideration given the intergenerational nature of most discussions. Ask questions that allow for the surfacing personal experience and ways of thinking.