Mar 4, 2008

Generations and learning

I'm more and more fascinated by this cross-generational learning thing, and how the learning function should play its vital part when in western society tons of people will retire and leave the workforce and need to be replaced by a new generation. It is a historical opportunity for the learning profession to claim its value!

I know, it is a generalization to talk about characteristics of entire generations. But let's do it anyway. The table has characteristics of 4 generations (in western society), as defined by Lancaster, L.C. and Stillman, D. When Generations Collide: Who They Are. Why They Clash. How to Solve the Generational <Puzzle at Work.Wheaton, IL. Harper Business, 2003. Click on it to enlarge.

Do the checking: ask people about their preferred way of communication for example. These generations also have different perspectives on what good learning is and how they prefer to learn. The babyboomers for example are used to more formal classrooms and prefer coaching by an expert to set them on the way. Generation Y likes experience-based learning and games, and connects with all and everyone to find what is needed. The funny thing is that the 3 right generations in the table will be involved in the learning and have quite different approaches and likes and dislikes about it. Organizations need to ensure that learning in the form of a knowledge transfer happens between the leaving babyboom generation and the entering Gen Y workforce, but the learning will be made by the Gen Y people that staff the learning function. That should be fascinating!

To end this article, I leave you with yet another YouTube video trying to tell you what students today are all about. (And education folks, I'm not fingerpointing at you to once again change the whole education system. I'm rather fingerpointing at the enterprise world for largely ignoring what is coming to them in the next few years.)

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