The end of a cultural era?

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By Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais, published by New Geography . . .

Senator Barack Obama’s success in the 2008 presidential campaign marks more than an historical turning point in American politics. It also signals the beginning of a new era for American society, one dominated by the attitudes and behaviors of the largest generation in American history.

Millennials, born between 1982 and 2003, now comprise almost one-third of the U.S. population and without their overwhelming support for his candidacy, Barack Obama would not have been able to win his party’s nomination, let alone been elected President of the United States. This new, “civic” generation is dramatically different than the boomers who have dominated our society since the 1960s and understanding this shift is critical to comprehending the changes that America will experience over the next forty years.

To successfully manage the transition to a Millennial era, institutions will need to find leaders of any age far-sighted enough to fully embrace Millennial attitudes and behaviors. They have to give them full reign to makeover the outdated structures they will inherit.

Individual Millennials use this ability to influence their own decisions, and then those of the wider group. If institutions and their leaders want their decisions to have any credibility with this new generation, every institution will need to open its own governance procedures to ensure a level of transparency and fairness that meets the test of Millennial values.

Now, another eighty years later, it is the Millennial Generation’s turn. Its “civic” revolution draws its unique character from the particular way Millennials were brought up, and their use of interactive communication technologies. We believe the Millennial Generation's revolution will be just as profound as that of previous “civic” generations. Barack Obama’s victory does indeed mark the end of the late 20th century “idealist” era of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. But its significance is much deeper, and likely to shape the nature of the new era the country is about to enter.

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