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Gen Z

This is the transcript for the podcast on Generations. It had resounding feedback and people found it very helpful. Here's the link to the pod

and here's the transcript...


Here’s a question for you…


If you had to pick one of the following what or who would it be that sociologists think our children will get their greatest influence from?

  • Friends

  • Teachers

  • The internet

  • Parents

  • Politicians

  • Celebrities

I’m going to tell you the answer at the end. But first of all I’m going to give you some context about how I got to the answer.

Yup, this week, I’ve got a gritty piece of research to share with you.

I’m going to chat through how we differ from generation to generation: How we are affected by our environment and the events of our time.

You know those expressions Generation X, millennials, Gen Z... do you find they all get a bit complicated to follow? Do you know what generation you are? Do you know what your kids are?

That’s what I’m going to unpack today.

I think when we look at today’s kids and try to understand them, it’s helpful to look at the different experiences that shaped us and the people before us, in order to see what’s shaping them.

Because understanding behaviour helps us with ….

connection and influence.

Why are those two so important?

Connection is at the base of every good relationship. Disconnection is at the heart of every failing relationship, so healthy connection is key.

Influence – well outcomes are affected by what and whom people are influenced by.

Remember that opening question? Who or what are your children most influenced by?

As we journey the generations today, we’ll see the answer to that question.

And You’ll find yourself in the generations research and your parents, and grandparents and of course, your children.

I’m not going to lie – it’s a meaty one this week. But it’s fun too. And there are gems toward the end that bring it all together and shape how we might change today and tomorrow. How we can reach our kids and connect with them in new ways.

In order to put it together and make it easy to listen to I asked my friend Alice Bond to give me a hand. We did a podcast together and then I divided it into two

This week, we’ll look at the generations, how they differ and the encouragements we can take from that. And next week is my conversation with Alice about how we can use that information in family life, in our relationships, in our connection with our children.

So, Alice is the brains behind this week and also I’ll include in the shownotes the research I’ve referred to.

So let’s have some fun with generations research…

Back in the 19060s a photographer called

Robert Capa took a photo in order to try to encapsulate a generation and he called them Generation X.

And it stuck

and it launched a fashion of labelling different generations as they emerged. And they also retrospectively named some of the earlier generations.

Here’s a run-down of dates and generation names. Bear in mind the dates can vary a little around the world, so I’m going with Jason Dorsey’s research boundaries.

Those born between 1927 and 1946 are called the silent generation – the seen and not heard kids.

They are currently between ages…75 and 94 (not all alive, of course)

I say current age because you stay in the same one. It moves with you.

Then those born between 1946 and 64 are the baby boomers. Currently ages 57-75

Then, Generation X were born between 1965 and 1976 - I’m in there! With everyone currently between 45 and 56 years of age.

Then along came the millennials. That’s a word we hear often and I was keen to unpack it.

I should think many of you listeners are millennials, currently between the ages of 26 – 44. But I know that I also have listeners who have older children and so you’ll be Gen X along with me and may well have a millennial child or two.

Millennials are born after 1977 and before 1995. They’re also known as Gen Y; they’re currently between age 26-44

Next in line is Generation zed, or more commonly called ‘Gen Zee’

Born 1996-2015. That is to say currently age 25 down to age six.

If your kids are 6 or below, it’s generally held that you can apply the Gen Z data to them too. For what it’s worth they’re emerging with the name Alpha Generation. There isn’t enough data on them yet to examine them exclusively. But the application of connection in the family setting is as relevant to them.

So quick review

  • Silent

  • Baby boomers

  • Gen X

  • Gen Y or milenianls

  • Gen Z

So we’re majoring on Gen Zed today. We’ll look at what distinguishes them as a generation. What are their motivations and frustrations? And how we can understand them and connect with them deeply. But don’t worry if your kids are a bit older, like some of mine – we’ll cover them too.

And if you’re wondering why the age boundaries vary in spans. It’s because they are determined by a range of factors including demographics, historical events, such as 911 and popular culture.

Now let’s touch on the characteristics of the different generations so we get the gist of it before we home in on Gen Z.

And just to say, Observations are just that, they’re neither positive nor negative, they just give insight to characteristics and behaviour.

The Baby boomers

were born in the big baby boom after WW2. As a generation they rejected and redefined traditional values. – they lived through the sexual revolution of the 60s. Free spirited; some of them hippies. Yes, your granny let it all hang out. One of their major influences included Vietnam war

But they were born before domestic computers - Yes, they were the first generation to transition across from non-digital to digital.

They carry pens and notepads about their person – do your parents do that? Do they understand paper-maps? – I know my Mum uses Ordinance Survey when she’s out on her countryside treks. And when I used to get lost in my car (pre Satnav), I’d call my Dad and he’d use complex terminology like North and West. They used dictionaries, libraries and encyclopaedias rather than computers. They worked much harder for their intel.

They’re characterised as being hardworking and resourceful, disciplined and goal-centric


Was brought up in the TV era.

Our formative digital experiences were BBC and ITV here, and abroad the native equivalents. And programmes had specific times – or you missed it. There wasn’t much to watch, so we all saw the same thing. Which means we were influenced by central trends.

A massive change from the million options today’s child can plug into at any time of the day and night.

One seminal shift influenced by television was satirical TV; spitting images, that roundly mocked the people in power and then gave way to a shift in respect for authority. Yes, Gen Z didn’t invent the undermining of authority.

And the other phenomena that started with Gen X was the slow emergence of celebrity culture. Eroded was the respect gained from education or experience. TV altered that.

No longer did a person need education or gravitas to command a public following, charisma was sufficient to bring about fame and influence.

This is where we see that trends and events impact choices…

For example, leaders who had a great deal to bring to their roles but were maybe more introverted or internal thinkers began to lose followers to those with more stage presence.

Charisma was the new authority.

Unsurprisingly, one of the overriding characteristics of Gen X is that they are naturally sceptical.

They like data to be authenticated, rather than anecdotal.

They value loyalty and Loyalty needs to be proven.

And so to… Millennials

A whole different breed. They had computer access during adolescence.

But, they’re still not digital natives because they didn’t grow up with tek. My millennial child often reminds me that he wasn’t allowed FaceBook until he was 16.

In fact, one of the great misnomers of the millennials is that they are referred to as Digitaly Savvy. It’s not in fact the true case. To quote the charismatic researcher, Jason Dorsey, they’re ‘digitally dependent’. They might have been the first generation to text “What time is dinner, Mum” instead of coming down the stairs to ask. They might have been texting tweeting and walking into walls, but they’re not credited with knowing how it really works, only with not being able to live without it.

What was the world event that determined their generational boundary?

911 - being old enough to have witnessed it happening in 2001

You cannot be born after 1995 and process the significance of 911. You were too young. The TV was being turned off for you, not on!

If 911 is history to you, you’re generation Z

Just as JFK is not a real-time experience for Gen X.

Why does it matter, if you could watch it as a historical event on-line?

Because when it’s history, we know what’s going to happen next. When it’s live you don’t.

Do you remember waking up the morning that Brexit got through? Did anyone not wonder how that was going to affect and shape England, Europe, the world? No matter which way you had voted. That was an experience that won’t be had by a generation Alpha watching it as history in 20 year’s time, any more than we can really have lived VE day.

Living through 911, no matter where you lived was cataclysmic to watch and try to process.

Millennials lived through the shift of power and the wars and anxieties that followed.

They lived through the beginnings of political polarisation – Obama coming to power in 2008 marking a significant moment in political history.

They have lived through the Challenging the norms.

So, what are their characteristics?

They are called the selfie-generation.

They challenge the hierarchy status quo – gone are formal attire and ties at work.

They are family centric. Family before work.

They’re politically knowledgeable and engaged.

They are supportive of social good, making impulsive donations, organising charity bike rides. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves.

They job-hop in a way that previous that previous generation would have been scorned for.

They are more team focussed than their predecessors. And significantly, they thrive on feedback and experience.

So what?

Well, if you’re employing one, it’ll help you to know that an annual review is a dated concept for a millennial. They want to know how they’re doing on a regular basis. They want their workplace to stimulate them. Think Google.

If you want to get the best out of millennials – to connect with and influence them; give them a good on-boarding experience at work, give them regular feedback. Experience and feedback are their language.

I’m homing in on the work space here, because Millennials aren’t children – they’re currently at work and/or

raising children of their own.

They are characterised as being the thinking generation

And living for experiences. Perhaps because buying houses was harder for them they turned to experiences: Travel, food, Instagram…

Whilst every generation will have their key drivers and characteristics, they will – we hope, also grow and mature, so it’s important to allow for changes as that cohort age.

Then along came Gen Zed

They’re under 25.

911, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are historical events to them.

They’ve had limitless opportunities.

They’re more likely to have crossed borders; have friends across the world they’ve never met; they’re more integrated in terms of race, culture and religion too.

So what are their characteristics?

Inclusivity, for one.

they’re more flexible about social issues such as sexual orientation, race, social standing…

But the piece of research Alice and I found most revelatory and most enlightening for us as parents – This is where all this is leading to –

is where this generation take their influence from.

Remember my opening question. Who are they most influenced by? – what did you answer?

Here’s the answer according to the Varkey foundation, who have deeply researched the issue.

The greatest influenceers of Gen Z are their parents

I,m going to say that again…

Gen Z is most significantly influenced by their parents.

I’m going to shout it from the roof tops.

In descending order, they are influenced by

1. parents

2. friends,

3. teachers

Then celebrities and somewhere near the bottom, politicians.

They have a drive for Authenticity and craving for truth.

Why do we need to know this?

Because more and more parents are saying that they feel they are losing the battle for influence against Gen Z's online world.

Remember that our children are prey to their personal algorithms.

They get a skewed view of the world depending on their interests and the platforms they engage with.

Where previous generations got their seminal story from the six-o-clock news, today’s youth and children are galvanised around whatever story their algorithm is feeding them. And that will feel like the dominant player in their world.

Because of that, their communities are often based on digital communities. Commonalities can form community in a way that previous generations didn’t have access to. So, you can bond around a political belief, ideologies, sexual orientation, or other similarities, rather than static communities such as family, region, country…

Yet, Gen Z are truth seekers, they love authenticity. They’ve grown up knowing that information they get online is often subjective rather than reliable. They understand the strengths and weaknesses of their smartphones. The lack of absolutes.

Where are they going to find truths reliable source amidst the shifting digital sands?

You and me:

Mum and Dad

Will they listen to us?

They’re a lot more likely to if we can try to see the world from their perspective. And that starts by accepting that we’re not necessarily coming from the same starting point or perspective. That’s the whole point of unpacking the generations. To show that our different formative experiences, world events and social norms shape the way we see the world. In knowing that we can try to understand the world as they see it, and still influence them from how we see it.

This is the point where I bring Alice in. She’s my clever friend who helped me to pot all this research and put it in a digestible form. Next week I’ll be chatting to her in detail about what we do about all this, but for this week I leave you on a soundbite. It’s her wonderful analogy of how to be confident that we can connect with our children in this sometimes scary and overwhelming culture they are being raised in.

She referenced her husband’s experience in the Outback of Australia some years ago when he was part of a crew trying to keep cattle in one area.

They had a choice, they either built high fences or provided a good watering hole.

That’s what we can do. We can make the watering hold a place that is so alluring, so connected, so satisfactory and affirming that they won’t need to the high fences to keep them safe. They’ll be drawn to keep their family as their primary belonging place. How do we do that? – come and join me next week.

I hope you’ve found that enlightening, I know that I did.

These are the research places I got my intel from:

Pew research

Varkey Foundation

Jason Dorsey


Please do ping it around and share it with those who you think will enjoy it.

And if you enjoyed this I think you'll love the book Parenting For Life . You can pick up your listeners discount here and see a preview.


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