Gini Dietrich

Sabotaging An Entire Culture

By: Gini Dietrich | September 6, 2011 | 
101

“A good 65 percent of today’s grade-school kids may end up doing work that hasn’t been invented yet.” – Cathy Davidson, co-director of the annual MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competitions

I saw a stat the other day that said most grade school kids aren’t learning cursive handwriting anymore. It’s pretty clear paper will eventually be extinct. Does that mean the next generation won’t write long hand?

Now we’re discovering these same kids will enter the workforce and do something that doesn’t yet exist. Still, our school system is preparing them for a world not one of us will recognize. And, as business leaders, we keep expecting to go back to the way things have always been done. But the economy and technology have changed things so quickly in the past three years, we’ll never go back to the way things were. Ever.

So why do we keep insisting they will?

A new book, “Now You See It,” by Cathy Davidson explores the idea that we can’t keep ignoring the “formidable cognitive skills” Generation Y and younger are developing. She also suggests we must stop disparaging digital prowess just because some of us don’t possess it.

She says, “A grudge match with the young can sabotage an entire culture.”

And still, we have a grudge match with the young.

No matter where I am or what type of business leader I’m working with, I hear the same things: “My customer isn’t 20 years old” or “my customer doesn’t use the Internet.” Business leaders who refuse to acknowledge that the way they’ve always done business has inherently changed…and it’s not going back.

Sure, most of us are straddling generations. You still have the Baby Boomer customer who prefers to do business by looking at the whites of your eyes. And you have late Generation X and Generation Y influencing purchase decisions, but not yet the decision maker, and they build trust by what they read and relationships they’ve built online. So we have to cater to both.

But too many of us are not catering to the younger generations at all and that’s where we’ll get stuck. That’s where we’ll sabotage an entire culture.

I don’t want to hear the “I’ll retire before I have to deal with this” excuse. That’s a cop out and a lousy excuse. Retirement is getting later and later and technology is moving so quickly it’ll catch up to you before you have the chance to play golf all day.

Stop holding a grudge match with the young professionals. Stop sabotaging a culture.

Instead start blazing the trail for your industry…before your competition does it for you.

This first ran as my weekly Crain’s Chicago Business column.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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101 Comments on "Sabotaging An Entire Culture"

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KenMueller
4 years 11 months ago
This strikes a chord with me because of some conversations we’ve had with our 16 year old. Most of the local school districts “force” their students to make a decision in 9th grade regarding what they want to do “when they grow up”. This determines which track they are put on through high school. Are they interested in science? math? Language? I have a problem with this. I KNEW way before 9th grade what I was going to do with my life. I planned for years and even entered college with those same plans. Problem is, I was wrong. Things… Read more »
M_Koehler
M_Koehler
4 years 11 months ago
You know my thoughts on this. We have way WAY too many old school people where I’m at and they have absolutly no interest in learning new ways/processes or even putting up with new ways. I’ve actually heard the term “upstart punk” used in describing some of the new people who have started in the last few years and had new ideas that have actually been very beneficial. It’s very disheartening especially when you are trying to make changes that can potentially save the company money and you run into roadblocks just because someone who’s been around a lot longer… Read more »
M_Koehler
M_Koehler
4 years 11 months ago
You know my thoughts on this. We have way WAY too many old school people where I’m at and they have absolutly no interest in learning new ways/processes or even putting up with new ways. I’ve actually heard the term “upstart punk” used in describing some of the new people who have started in the last few years and had new ideas that have actually been very beneficial. It’s very disheartening especially when you are trying to make changes that can potentially save the company money and you run into roadblocks just because someone who’s been around a lot longer… Read more »
M_Koehler
M_Koehler
4 years 11 months ago
You know my thoughts on this. We have way WAY too many old school people where I’m at and they have absolutly no interest in learning new ways/processes or even putting up with new ways. I’ve actually heard the term “upstart punk” used in describing some of the new people who have started in the last few years and had new ideas that have actually been very beneficial. It’s very disheartening especially when you are trying to make changes that can potentially save the company money and you run into roadblocks just because someone who’s been around a lot longer… Read more »
M_Koehler
M_Koehler
4 years 11 months ago
You know my thoughts on this. We have way WAY too many old school people where I’m at and they have absolutly no interest in learning new ways/processes or even putting up with new ways. I’ve actually heard the term “upstart punk” used in describing some of the new people who have started in the last few years and had new ideas that have actually been very beneficial. It’s very disheartening especially when you are trying to make changes that can potentially save the company money and you run into roadblocks just because someone who’s been around a lot longer… Read more »
leslie
leslie
4 years 11 months ago

@dianebrogan thank you, have a happy Tuesday 🙂

leslie
leslie
4 years 11 months ago

@dianebrogan thank you, have a happy Tuesday 🙂

faybiz
4 years 11 months ago

G- part of the problem on the ground is what @KenMueller speaks about. Preparing students for what exists is hard enough. The schools are still operating on a premise of a life-long career like doctor, lawyer, plumber, when in reality, most people are changing “career/occupation” multiple multiple times. I’ve had the same discussion with my kids (who are a hair younger than Ken’s) and have said the same thing. Or something to the effect of “find something that you can enjoy and supports you… and will help your take care of me and your mother…”

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@KenMueller That actually is the whole point of the book I mention: How schools need to stop preparing kids for a job that won’t exist when they graduate.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@KenMueller That actually is the whole point of the book I mention: How schools need to stop preparing kids for a job that won’t exist when they graduate.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@M_Koehler And you know my thoughts on working for a company that refuses to change or innovate. I’d be fired in my first week.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@faybiz I love the last part – LOL! It’s true that the schools are preparing our youth for jobs that won’t exist, and that’s the point of the book. But I also think it’s our responsibility, as leaders, to stop saying things such as “by the time my customer is online, I’ll be retired” and embrace change.

KenMueller
4 years 11 months ago

@faybiz and that last part is all that matters: taking care of mom and dad!

AllieRambles
4 years 11 months ago
Gini, That next generation is unfamiliar with rotary phones, fax machines, mail, and cars that don’t talk to you. But most of all they are unfamiliar with the slow speed of life that can exist. Kids want everything yesterday. In my day (ha ha “in my day”) that was called impatience. Now it’s a norm. What we are throwing at them, besides the Math and some science, they are mostly bored with. My son is more inclined to do well if the project involves the computer. When he has a question for the teacher, he emails her. He forgot his… Read more »
AllieRambles
4 years 11 months ago

@M_Koehler Our schools went paperless, but only because of budget cuts. You would think they would take this as an opportunity to learn new innovations but they don’t. I say let the kids teach them how to go paperless. 🙂

~Allie

RAAckerman
RAAckerman
4 years 11 months ago
Great post! This is an issue that so many folks just fail to comprehend. Yes, their customers may not be 20 years old (the folks selling the plain jane cellphone that just makes calls and has large buttons know exactly WHO their market is), but we need to develop products that will last more than a fad. That means thinking ahead. I wrote a column a while back about how my business tools have changed over 40 years (http://www.adjuvancy.com/wordpress/http:/www.adjuvancy.com/wordpress/ready/). The trick is to design your product for the market that will exist in two to five years. Shorter than that-… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@Harald_Nick That one makes me crazy!

TheJackB
4 years 11 months ago

This conversation has so many different angles ranging from what the young generations are being taught in school to how some of them have been sabotaged by helicopter parenting. Any way we look at it these “kids” will grow up, move into the workforce and become consumers.

So we can’t ignore them.

John Falchetto
4 years 11 months ago
Hey Gini, I think there is two things here. One my customer can really not be 20 years old, if I’m selling retirement plans for example. Do we really have to cater to baby boomers, gen y and x? I think it really depends on who we are talking to and what we are selling. Love your point about school, I think 99% of the stuff kids are learning in school isn’t relevant to what they will be doing in the future. I remember math class with a compass, drawing circles and having to learn how to do stuff in… Read more »
John Falchetto
4 years 11 months ago
Hey Gini, I think there is two things here. One my customer can really not be 20 years old, if I’m selling retirement plans for example. Do we really have to cater to baby boomers, gen y and x? I think it really depends on who we are talking to and what we are selling. Love your point about school, I think 99% of the stuff kids are learning in school isn’t relevant to what they will be doing in the future. I remember math class with a compass, drawing circles and having to learn how to do stuff in… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@kmjeffrice I wish so, too!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@ToddBullivant Thanks Todd!

Harald_Nick
Harald_Nick
4 years 11 months ago

@ginidietrich As much as “My customer isn’t 20 years old” or “my customer doesn’t use the Internet.” Hard to conquer – but we keep trying!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@Harald_Nick That’s the only thing we can do

Harald_Nick
Harald_Nick
4 years 11 months ago

@ginidietrich Maybe worth a read! @jeffbullas “No Bullshit Social Media’ by Jason Falls & Erik Deckers http://t.co/KRcAfWa

JenFongSpeaks
4 years 11 months ago

Great article Ginny. I’ve been writing a lot lately about how we have 4 generations in the marketplace, and how differently they communicate. What’s so challenging is that the preferred communication method of one generation is one that causes extreme discomfort in another. Yet we all have to work together. In sales, especially, this is becoming a HUGE issue, and one we all need to grapple with. We can’t just do what’s comfortable for us if we want to be successful. We are truly at a crossroads, and you either adapt or get left behind.

JenFongSpeaks
4 years 11 months ago

Great article Gini. I’ve been writing a lot lately about how we have 4 generations in the marketplace, and how differently they communicate. What’s so challenging is that the preferred communication method of one generation is one that causes extreme discomfort in another. Yet we all have to work together. In sales, especially, this is becoming a HUGE issue, and one we all need to grapple with. We can’t just do what’s comfortable for us if we want to be successful. We are truly at a crossroads, and you either adapt or get left behind.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@Harald_Nick I actually read the pre-print version. It’s good!

glenn_ferrell
glenn_ferrell
4 years 11 months ago
I agree that the “I’ll retire before I have to deal with this” excuse is pretty lame. Its variants include “My customers aren’t on the internet”, “I get all my referrals word of mouth”, “why would I do that if I have to close all my business face-to-face”, etc., There is powerful evidence to present in arguing against these positions. But it seems to many times be rebuffed. Gabriella Sannino (@SEOcopy) believes that what this all boils down to is that they have no budget. I think she might be on the right track. Now if we ask directly whether… Read more »
TweetShannonNow
TweetShannonNow
4 years 11 months ago

What a great post Gini! We do need to make sure that our market and product is catered to several generations or customer demographics. We need to be ahead of the curve and delve deep in and we can not lose. Thanks for the insight!

T60Productions
4 years 11 months ago

@KenMueller Good stuff Ken. I think it’s crazy how we want kids to specialize in things so early. Same thing is even going on with sports where kids focusing on one sport instead of playing multiple things.

Give them a broad range of experiences as kids and let them focus on specialties when they’re grown up.

–Tony Gnau

T60Productions
4 years 11 months ago

@KenMueller Good stuff Ken. I think it’s crazy how we want kids to specialize in things so early. Same thing is even going on with sports where kids focusing on one sport instead of playing multiple things.

Give them a broad range of experiences as kids and let them focus on specialties when they’re grown up.

–Tony Gnau

T60Productions
4 years 11 months ago

@KenMueller Good stuff Ken. I think it’s crazy how we want kids to specialize in things so early. Same thing is even going on with sports where kids focusing on one sport instead of playing multiple things.

Give them a broad range of experiences as kids and let them focus on specialties when they’re grown up.

–Tony Gnau

wabbitoid
4 years 11 months ago
Gini, you keep crossing over into my territory! 🙂 It’s OK, there’s a lot of room here for intelligent minds speaking out on what they see clearly. We need to talk about this. The problem you are talking about is far deeper than the online/digital world. Our educational system has gotten more rigid and less about developing critical thinking – and the kids are rebelling against it. You’re talking about a gap that has hardened before they become adults in many cases. If you think you’re dismayed by what you see, you should talk to the kids. They know that… Read more »
wabbitoid
4 years 11 months ago
Gini, you keep crossing over into my territory! 🙂 It’s OK, there’s a lot of room here for intelligent minds speaking out on what they see clearly. We need to talk about this. The problem you are talking about is far deeper than the online/digital world. Our educational system has gotten more rigid and less about developing critical thinking – and the kids are rebelling against it. You’re talking about a gap that has hardened before they become adults in many cases. If you think you’re dismayed by what you see, you should talk to the kids. They know that… Read more »
wabbitoid
4 years 11 months ago
Gini, you keep crossing over into my territory! 🙂 It’s OK, there’s a lot of room here for intelligent minds speaking out on what they see clearly. We need to talk about this. The problem you are talking about is far deeper than the online/digital world. Our educational system has gotten more rigid and less about developing critical thinking – and the kids are rebelling against it. You’re talking about a gap that has hardened before they become adults in many cases. If you think you’re dismayed by what you see, you should talk to the kids. They know that… Read more »
T60Productions
4 years 11 months ago

Good stuff Gini… love your last line!

–Tony Gnau

T60Productions
4 years 11 months ago

Good stuff Gini… love your last line!

–Tony Gnau

T60Productions
4 years 11 months ago

Good stuff Gini… love your last line!

–Tony Gnau

Tinu
4 years 11 months ago

It’s so easy to make assumptions that we don’t even know we’re making. Like “my subscriber isn’t reading my site on their cell phone.” But you know, my grandmother in Africa is 86 and she has a Blackberry. My niece turns 17 this year and I haven’t seen her without her phone in years. So the rationale that ”my customers are on the web/phone/Google/social media/ xyz live function” can be countered with. “Exactly – and that’s why you’re in trouble now.”

Maybe your customers aren’t on the web because they’re someone else’s customers now.

Leon
Leon
4 years 11 months ago
G’Day Gini, To put it mildly, I’m just a bit older than you. And my memory is only occasionally subject to “seniors’ moments.”. I moved my 30 year old offline business to online three years ago. I could see that it had to be where everyone else was going. But I gotta say that I’m not too concerned about predictions anymore. Did you know that the “paperless office” was the latest thing; in the 1980s? Back in the 1970s James Martin, an early futurologists told us that we could all do our jobs without going to the office each day.… Read more »
rustyspeidel
rustyspeidel
4 years 11 months ago

I still think kids need to learn our world’s basic history, how to write, and how to solve math problems (in a reality-based context, preferably). But what I think they REALLY will need his how to interact with other people. All these tools, technologies and capabilities still, and always will, rely on human interactions, ideas and opinions o be useful. I could care less what tools they use to communicate, as long as they are polite, engaged, well-versed and prepared for the task at hand. Those things haven’t changed, well, ever.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@AllieRambles <—-what she said!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@AllieRambles See, that stuff is so freaking cool to me. I love that he’s running a forum at his age. That is the type of stuff the schools should be teaching. This book has a pretty interesting premise: Stop teaching kids the skills one would need to run a machine and teach them the things that allow them to be creative and innovative. I really believe the right brain people will win in the next 50 years.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@TheJackB Oh don’t get me started on the helicopter parents. I once had the father of a young professional call me to negotiate the starting salary I’d offered his kid. Guess what happened?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@TheJackB Oh don’t get me started on the helicopter parents. I once had the father of a young professional call me to negotiate the starting salary I’d offered his kid. Guess what happened?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@John Falchetto Why isn’t your customer 20 years old if you’re selling retirement plans? I started saving for retirement when I was 16. I absolutely think EVERY business should look at using the web to connect with their customers…even if their current decision maker is 50 years old.

marianne.worley
4 years 11 months ago
Change: Some of us embrace it, while others abhor it. The pace of change has also accelerated, so we’re seeing “generations” that only span 10 or maybe 20 years. As a marketer, I take this as a challenge to take a diverse approach to communications. You have to know your target markets, and connect with them using the methods THEY choose. We have to adapt and be able to distribute content using multiple platforms. (And yes, some target markets will still want a, gasp, printed brochure!) Businesses that embrace change, instead of having it forced upon them, are always the… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@JenFongSpeaks It’s funny you say that. We have a client who built his business, and sold it, based on Career Builder and Monster ads and making phone calls. Lots and lots of phone calls. And, because that worked before (really well), he wants to replicate it. We’ve talked him into letting one person use LinkedIn, part-time, to show how well it can work before it’s instituted across everyone. And emails? Forget about it.

NancyD68
4 years 11 months ago
My son is running rings around the rest of his class and now wants his own business! He of course wants to clean floors for only 5 bucks but he is pretty enterprising. he also wants to buy baseball cards on ebay and resell them. He scares me sometimes with how smart he is. We were taught stuff like Home Ec and how to behave. I really need “Hoe to negotiate for better pay” that is a class I needed to take. We need to realize that the world is changing – we change with it, or we stagnate. The… Read more »
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