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About Clay

Clay's recruiting and strategic consulting efforts over the past 20 years have provided firms in the printing and communications industries the talent and perspective that has enabled them to navigate the constant change they’ve faced.

His current company, the bleedingEDGE, provides digital printing firms with 1:1 marketing solutions that enable their small- and medium-sized clients to compete with larger competitors using a cooperative strategy and production model. In addition to the normal 1:1 marketing techniques of personalization and customization, the bleedingEDGE incorporates timing strategies, generational analysis and sociological factors in producing results well above the norm.

 

Lady Gaga and the Greatest Generation: Two Peas in a Pod

 
What do Lady Gaga and the soldiers who stormed Normandy Beach have in common? It’s something that will change the way you look at your workforce.

Twelve years ago, the book “The Fourth Turning” by William Strauss and Neil Howe hit the streets. Written by two generational analysts, the book will change the way you look at the future.

The vast majority of people view time as kind of marching on with no rhyme or reason, just at the whims of random events. This may not be the case.

The premise of “The Fourth Turning” is that time moves in a circular fashion...in other words, “it repeats itself.”

Strauss and Howe, after studying history back to the 1500s, identified four generational archetypes each lasting between 20 and 25 years. These archetypes repeat in order each cycle and have different characteristics. The latest examples, in order, are as follows (including birth date range and cycle nickname):

Hero (1901-1924) — soldiers of World War II (G.I)

Artist (1925-1942) — country re-constructionists (Silent)

Profit (1943-1960) — protesters of Vietnam War (Baby Boomers)

Nomad (1961-1981) — the outcasts (Generation X)

Hero (1982-2004) — the Internet generation (Millennials/Generation Y)

I repeated the Hero generation for a reason.

The first group of Heroes, the boys of Normandy Beach, were born around 1922. Their generational archetypes is all about cooperation and teamwork. Being a rogue like their predecessors—the Nomads—is not their mindset. That’s why we won the war.

The Vietnam War featured the Boomers (the Profit archetype). Their generational archetype is known for...well you know. Can you say high divorce rate, the self-reflection movement, excessive consumption, etc. This type doesn’t work well on a battlefield.

Now to Lady Gaga...her birthdate is 1986, thus making her a Hero.

Now to my point. I cut my teeth in business promoting music in the ’70s and ’80s. The industry is wildly different today than it was back then. Did you ever see Led Zeppelin collaborate with the Who? Or the Stones and the Kinks record together? No, they didn't. Examples of professional collaboration within the music industry were few and far between.

Now let’s look at the music industry today. The number one viewed music video ever— “Telephone”—was a collaboration between Lady Gaga and Beyoncé. We’re talking two of the top divas in the entertainment world working together...and loving it.

Jay Z, Beyoncé’s husband, topped the charts with Alicia Keyes, and the rumor mill is riddled with who will be collaborating with who next. And look at the rappers—everybody is in bed with everybody else (figuratively speaking). Approximately, 50 percent of the top songs on Billboard’s Top 50 are collaborations.

Thirty years ago Rush and Journey - I don't think so.

Enough.

Millenials—the latest Heroes—are about collaboration. I’ve even seen a rash of co-working sites pop up.

Now, what can we do to take advantage of this predisposition of working together? As employers what can we take from this?

Traditional thinking, at least from our immediate perspective, is that everybody is competitive—and that competition motivates us. That might be true for us 50-year-olds. But remember, we are from the Profit generation (Baby Boomers).

However, our employee base—the foundation, the future of our future, the 20-something-year-olds—doesn't think like us. Don't get me wrong, competition will always exist. But for this generation, the Heroes, it’s not the prime motivating factor—teamwork is. Structuring a work environment that focuses around pitting one against another may in fact be counter productive.

And on top of it, Generation Y is more interested than any other generation in development and feedback in the work place. We saw that in the compliance exhibited by the troops in World War II. It’s a characteristic you as employers can use in your business...one you probably couldn’t have used 10 years ago.

The Heroes want to excel, but excel together. It worked at Normandy. And it’ll probably work now.

You just have look past the iPods, the texting and the tattoos.

To learn how to create The Ultimate Customer Experience, check out the bleedingEDGE Website. And for more of my musings, read my blog and my Tweets on Twitter @variable_edge.

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