Veterans, Silent, Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and now enter the Millennials.
Each generation has distinct attitudes, behaviors, expectations, habits and motivational buttons and every generation the perennial questions arise: “Whatever happened to the ‘good ol’ days?” and “What’s the matter with kids today?” Usually the more generations that have intervened between generations, the more emphatic the question. WHO ARE THESE KIDS TODAY? Judah Pollack, though not a millennial (those in their teens to twenties), is like Carl Jung, a synthesizer of information and patterns. His classic liberal arts education at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio provided the perfect venue for studying Jung who loved to delve into the intricacies and interweaving of symbolism, myth, history and humanity.
To experience Pollack, do what a millennial would prefer to do. Check out his YouTube minilectures. He explains and demonstrates using visuals how the millennials prefer to take in, respond to and share information, likening the process somewhat to the character in Asimov’s Foundation series who invents a discipline called psycho history. [Part 3 is this interviewer’s personal favorite!]
WTA: Each generation has its own unique “brand.” How might we begin to understand the Millennials?
Pollack: “I feel like Jung in many ways saw how our own psyches shape history, and our memory of things. In some ways he saw religion and history and art and myth as different manifestations of the same force. This idea of something fluid but eternal flowing through history and taking different form at different times is, I believe, essential to understanding the Millennials.
WTA: What typically sets a youth culture apart from the next older generation or two, leading the older ones to bemoan, “What’s the matter with kids today??”
Pollack: Trying to understand any youth culture is difficult because those cultures are specifically designed to be opaque to us elders. Kids invent slang to code their speech. They seem to secretly agree on what is and is not cool. They are seeking to carve out a space for themselves away from us. They don’t want us to understand. But by making youth culture a market force we have made it powerful. And so we are left with the strange situation of one culture trying to decipher another. What makes it so odd is these are not foreign cultures. These are cultures living in the same house, or working in the same office. And yet they are so different which only makes the chasm appear greater. But there is good news!
WTA: Good news? What is it?
Pollack: In truth the chasm is not that wide. Yes, in order to work with them, to lead and manage Millennials, and to try to sell to them, Baby Boomers and Gen Xer’s are trying to understand their culture. But just as Jung saw our psyches, this collective thing, manifest in myriad ways, in history, in religion, in myth, in art, so the Millennials have an exponentially manifested culture that is really one thing, their collective psyche. We can be confused by how their psyche has manifested but that is simply because they have, like every generation before, turned it into a cypher. The Millennials are not literary as a form, they create visual narratives. They are not about signs but rather about symbols. We just have to read the symbols.
WTA: So that is why you are so interested in the visual symbolization of type preferences?
Pollack: Yes. There is no need to change the underlying structure of Type. We just need to change how we manifest it.
WTA: How do you propose we do that?
Pollack: There are two main things that Type practitioners need to do to adapt to the Millennial generation.
The first is to become more visual. We must start using and speaking in symbols. We don’t need more stock photos of people in an office or at a birthday party with fake smiles. The minute one of those images goes up, the Millennial tunes out. They have higher expectations of our use of technology. They want video, moving pictures, and they expect up to date references. So get some young friends on Facebook and watch what they send to each other. Dive into the culture. You will start to see Type everywhere expressed in these myriad symbols and forms. To attract millennials, speak Type in their language.
The second thing is to let them be more engaged. The passivity of taking an assessment and then being told what you are will not hold much interest for the Millennials. They are not a generation that reads instructions but rather picks up the controller for a video game and starts to play figuring they will intuitively know what to do. In order to engage Millennials in Type we need to do the equivalent of give them the game controller. We need to show them the model in such a way that they can walk through it themselves with us as guides. We need to let them come to a place where they verify their type for themselves – where they are full, active participants.
WTA: So what has Judah Pollack been working on in this regard?
Pollack: I have been developing this new model for the US Army with the help of John Beebe. It has met with great success and has succeeded in renewing interest in our time honored model.
So, what’s the matter with kids today? According to Pollack, not much. Appealing to their inclination for visual information, their penchant for social networking, tweeting and texting as a way of life and not as some awesome technological astonishment, and taking lessons from their political progressiveness will help us decode them and very possibly learn to be even better more modern versions of ourselves.
Interviewed by one of the Silent Generation, whose conforming instincts were in sharp contrast to the cacophony of those rowdy anti-establishment Boomers.
Judah Pollack is an expert in leadership development, innovation, and change management. He is a writer, presenter, and trainer who delivers targeted, keen insights to help individuals more deeply understand themselves and their organizations. Judah believes that it is only when we understand that we can truly change. For the past year and a half he has been co-designing and delivering the Starfish Adaptive Leadership Program for the U.S. Army under the auspices of the Army’s TRADOC Command and the Army Chief of Staff, General Martin Dempsey. He is also co-writing a book with New York Times bestselling author Ori Brafman. He has lectured throughout the Army and to business leaders on the subject of innovation. He will be guest lecturing at the Haas School of Business this summer on self-awareness in the business world. Judah has worked with many top companies including Google, Oracle, SAP, Roche, and The Trium Group, as well as non-profits like REDF and the Engage Network. In 2004 he was named Writer of the Year by the New Hampshire Press Association for his coverage of the 2004 presidential primary. He is co-chairing the 2011 International Conference on Psychological Type.