Tomorrow’s broadcast regarding generational learning stirs up debate even before the show airs

Posted on October 25, 2010

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This post is from the Contracting Intelligence Blog

I must admit to some scepticism about these broad-brush attempts to create generational segments. Such analyses tend to be very US-centric – and even then apply largely to the more privileged members of US society. Outside these ranks, many of the depicted ‘norms’ are unrecognizable. For example, the birth rate analysis or the references to social welfare programs or the depiction of the 1980s as ‘the era when mothers started to go out to work’ have little or no relevance in countries such as India or China, where such a high proportion of today’s knowledge workers reside. Indeed, I question the extent to which this generalized analysis applies even in the US, given the large numbers of recent immigrants within the professional workforce.

Tim Cummins, Commitment Matters Blog Post (October 24th, 2010)

I have always appreciated Tim Cummins’ balanced perspectives on a variety of subjects where real-world practicality converges with emerging procurement and contracting practices.

While I must admit that I never gave much thought to the subject of generational learning habits, the concept of generational divides entered my consciousness in 2008 when I spoke at a conference for a Canadian purchasing association in St. John’s, Newfoundland. (Travelogue: The hotel at which I had stayed provided an amazing view of the harbor and an actual iceberg which from what I understand, is a common sight for Canada’s furthest point east.)

It was at this conference that I sat in on a presentation by Jim Gray from Media Strategy whose session titled “The Generation Trap” was back by popular demand . . . at least that’s what was stated in the program.

During the session, Gray talked about the current day phenomena where “four generations work side by side in offices, institutions and manufacturing plants throughout North America.” This according to the speaker, “created a new workplace challenge – how to communicate effectively with the members of several different age groups.” It was really quite a fascinating 60-minutes. It was also what caused me to pay attention when Bill McAneny contacted me about his research in the area of generational learning.

I figured that as was the case with Gray’s communication challenges, similar issues might exist within the realms of learning – especially in terms of the increasingly diverse, and as Tim Cummins pointed out, globalized market.

In researching these as well as other questions which will be posed to Bill McAneny tomorrow at 12:30 PM EST on the PI Window on Business, there was definitely no shortage of reference material. This included Neil Howe’s and William Strauss’ Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, a book that was originally published in 2000, and to which one critic referred to as being “familiar territory rehashed, and the profiles and prophecies just too general . . . but it’s hard to resist this hopeful vision for our children and the future.” Sounds somewhat similar to IACCM’s Cummins’ remarks.

In his research, McAneny takes the Howe-Struass communication concept one step further in terms of learning, with the introduction of Generation Z who in our October 19th post “Generational Learning: What is the Impact on the Purchasing Profession?,” were referred to as being “digital natives,” and an “introverted generation, with a lower attention span.” A kind of Reality Bites meets The Net mindset.

So what are the differences if any relative to how generations learn, and how does it impact us in the real world in terms of increasingly blended workforces? Of even greater interest, how does it impact the purchasing profession and in particular contract negotiation?

One question in the context of Tim Cummins’ September 1st, 2010 post “The Power Of Negotiation” in which he provides the following feedback regarding one of my articles would deal with the issue of truth in the negotiation process:

“While broadly agreeing with the point that unprincipled negotiation will lead to disappointing results, I regret that I do not entirely share Jon’s perspectives on the question of lying. Sadly, this is not so much to do with the negotiators in sales or procurement – it comes from the top. For example, in its recent paper ‘A Conspiracy of Optimism’, the International Center For Complex Project Management identified the ‘conspiracy’ that leads executives on both sides of the table to ‘lie’ to their trading partners and to create a combined version of ‘the truth’ that leads to mutual delusion over what they can achieve, by when and for how much. Indeed, how truthful are any of us when we are seeking to impress someone with whom we want a deal or a relationship?”

Taking into account the optimistically bright view of the Howe-Strauss Y Generation, and the sullen isolationism of McAneny’s “Z” crowd, are lessons relative to negotiation going to remain constant re can “Y” learn to lie and, would “Z” even care?

Like me, I guess you will have to tune in tomorrow at 12:30 PM EST to find out the answers that Bill McAneny has to offer on “Generational Learning: What is the Impact on the Purchasing Profession” on Blog Talk Radio. By the way, be sure to visit the live chat room to share your thoughts and questions during the broadcast.

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