I’ve read some articles (newspaper, mags, blogs, and pieces of books) about the difference between Gey Y (~ 1980-1999), Gen X (~ 1965-1980) and Baby Boomers (~ 1945-1965) in the work place. I wonder whether these articles are really relevant, some parts of it is not, but i found some part of comparison which are somewhat accurate.
The potential fallacies of such comparison
As I read these articles I feel that it somehow has a disconnect with reality due to several things:
1. They have to make some generalities and generalities can be false (the generalities are not representative of a dominant, significant, or important part of the population), unrepresentative (it can only represent one part of the entire population), and incomparable (the segment of Gex Y compared is different to the segment of Gen X compared, you could be comparing qualities of the top 10% of Gen Y with the 50% of Gen X)
2. It’s mostly made by American to explain a piece of social segmentation with the American context. Since different GDP allows access to different level of education (better paid teachers, better class room, better teaching equipments, better museums, better libraries, etc) the portrayal made in these articles might not be relevant for Indonesia.
Why Gen Y across the globe has more similar experience
But you know what, i found that for latter generation (gen Y), the portrait of Gen Y is more comparable across nations than for the previous generations. That is, a comparison of traits of Gen Y in America and Indonesia would show more compatibilities than a trait comparison of Gen X in both countries.
The experience of growing up with technology.
The latter generation (Gen Y) experience a strong common experience through Technology. Growing with TV Shows for Gen Y in Indonesia and America are a common reality (somewhat public TV channels in Indonesia expanded in the 1990s), while for Gen X, the American Gen X grows up with TV shows, while only the very privileged Indonesian Gen X grew with TV show.
Same with computer, for Gen Y in America and Indonesia, computers invades their life in their teens (at least in the form of video games and early windows O/S). For Gen X in Indonesia, computer only becomes prevalent after they are in the 20s .
How about the prevalence of cell phones? or the internet?
Oh, the internet, this is interesting. One can say that both Gen X and Gen Y in both Indonesia and America are exposed to the internet, so for both Gen X and Gen Y, the internet should produce the same range of traits (not experience) wherever they are.
Not necessarily, since we are talking about traits, no experience, we have to take note of in which period of life does this experience took place. For Gen X, the internet comes in their late 20s, after the reality of life started to sinks in, after they had said to themselves what life and it myriad components is all about, after they have choose how they would view life and work, after all those, then the internet comes in.
For Gen Y, the internet is part of their formative experience, the openness, the lack of boundaries, the lack of censorship, the need for self-censorship, the utter impossibility of reading everything on the net, the need to prioritize on what you want to know, it’s all part of the formative experience. Life is open, life has no boundaries. All this coincides nicely with the views of a growing generation in their teens and adolescence, dreams are still alive, the hope of a life open with possibilities, hope of a self with unbound potential.
This openness ripples across the globe, that’s why Gen Y has a lot more similar traits across the globe then the previous generation
But still, the comparison are only accurate in some parts of the segment
Not all Gen Y are equal,
there are many who grew up without television, without computer, even without electricity. There are many who grew up with less than great education. There are those, that although can afford can good to school, choose to forfeit the advantage that education provides. There are those with a stronger intention to excel in what they do.
Two main factors create segment within any generation: economic background and level of self motivation
Why am I mentioning all these?
Because I’m going to draw observations about the difference between Gen X and Gen Y based on what I see, and when I draw these observations, please remember that this is based on a segment of society place in a certain spot, their position their being allowed by both their economic background and self motivation.
These observations might not be relevant or true for any other segment of Gen X and Gen Y
The difference between Gen Y and the previous generation
1. Gen Y: ideas are easy, ideas are to be shared, ideas grows when they are shared.
Example, Facebook relies their live on their technology, their ability to arrange data from million of users to a server and then back and forth allows their user to enjoy their service, their ability to serve millions of concurrent user allows them to be interactive. Gen X companies would protect these abilities like mad men, if it were Intel and Windows, the would be creating patents for each step in their technology chain. But let’s say you want to replicate what Facebook is doing, you can access almost all of their knowledge on the internet, the have engineering blogs where they share what they do, they open source their system methodology.
In terms of intellectual property, what you need to replicate facebook is out there in the open. Then what do you don’t have? The existing network effect of Facebook, an army of Gen Y’s doing something they like in a place totally cool being paid handsomely. You don’t have the people, you don’t have the capable and motivated people. You can have those who replicate, but not those who create. Big difference when it came to trying to replicate a Facebook.
2. Gen Y: source of knowledge are abundant, and thus the acquisition of knowledge is not limited by your age but more by your willingness to acquire knowledge and the 24 hour/day time limit (which is equal to everyone)
For the previous generation, age is an very very important indication of knowledge. During their education time, knowledge are imparted in a very structured manner, after a set amount of schooling, you would now about this and this. It’s all limited by the curriculum. After education, knowledge are expensive and secretive, you want to understand taxes? go pay a course; you want to understand database and analytics? go pay a course; you want to understand how to be better at your field of work? pray to God that your boss is willing to share with you.
For previous generation, knowledge is expensive, you have to pay someone to give it to you. For previous generation, knowledge is secretive, no master or peer would willingly to give knowledge to any pupil, they could be your competitor one day, you have to build relationship, you have to give favors, you have to build trust, then you might, might get knowledge. Now all these, takes time. That’s why for previous generation, age is an important indicator of knowledge (and also are degrees and certificate, again, all takes age to acquire).
But for Gen Ys, you want to know about database and analytics? start with Google, from there on, the only limit is your willingness to know about database and the 24hour/day time limit.
You want to know about how to dress proper for certain event? go to Askmen.com
You want to know more on how to navigate the workplace in general? go to bnet.com
Knowledge is abundant.
True, there are some things that remains secretive and has to be obtained through favors and trust, how to navigate your office, understand how to approach specific people in your office, things that are right down on the ground has to be obtained on the ground.
And true, the 24hour/day time limit means that your age would somewhat be factor (you know more studying database 16hours/day after 8 years than after 2 years)
But, the speed and access to knowledge acquisition is much different. You only need a Net Book and internet connection to learn about database, you can do this 4 to 6 hours a day, depending how high is your motivation level. You’re not limited to a course curriculum and their allotted study time.
So while previous generation might need an A amount of time to gain B amount of knowledge, the Gen Y might only need less than A amount of time, depending only the Gen Y’s motivation level.
Can the previous generation acquire knowledge in the same pace now? Yes, but what matter is their view about the importance of age in knowledge acquisition. Imagine someone who spend his life moving from city to city with a horse, can he use a car now? maybe, but his perception about how long it takes to move from point A to point B is influenced by the horse he had been using.
Not all Gen Y are like these
But this rule of faster acquisition of knowledge does not apply to all Gen Ys, some has to low level of motivation to take advantage of the abundant knowledge source, some does not have access to the abundant knowledge
But for those who have access and enough motivation, ideas are open, and knowledge is abundant
The following picture is from entrepreneur.com