I. INFOCHILDREN HAVE ALREADY CHANGED THE WORLD
Barack Obama was elected President of the United States in large part due to the
power of his speeches -
His chief speechwriter is 27 years old.
Obama is the 44th President of the United States,
BUT ONLY THE THIRD BORN SINCE 1924!!!! - since BEFORE the Depression Era!
The other two, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, born in 1946, are Boom Babies.
Obama, born in 1961, is technically a Boomer, but he thinks and functions like a Gen-
Xer, a Post-War Pragmatist.
The power of his speeches is the responsibility of Jon Favreau, age 27, born in 1981 -
an Infochild – a Millennial.
As we progress into the 21st century, the Millenials, the Infochildren, have already
begun to shape their own future – and ours.
II. SUSTAINED CHANGE VS. SUDDENCHANGE
The rate of change in North America is continuing and is rapid, and has been both for
several decades now. But there are certain historical discontinuities that obscure the
underlying rate of continuing change – in these instances, revolution obscures
At times of revolution, there is a qualitative change, a change in the very nature
of life; at all other times, we live in evolutionary change, quantitative change,
change that is MORE -bigger or greater - but really just more of the same.
The shift from the Agricultural Era to the Industrial Era was one discontinuity – a
qualitative change, not just quantitative.This new Industrial Era extended thru the
Depression and thru WWII, up thru 1955.
It is no historical accident that Marlon Brando, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis
Presley – all are now cultural icons - emerged at the same time. They were created by
the decade of social changes that began with the end of WWII and grew with the size
of the Baby Boom.
These changes, effective 1955, created the ‘60s and the Viet Nam era protests.
This era lasted until September 11, 2001, through the first Boom Baby presidency;
9/11/01 transformed the second Boom Baby presidency and created our current era.
We don’t know what will constitute the opening of the next era, but there is always
some historical discontinuity - SUDDEN CHANGE - that announces the New Era, and
obscures the underlying ongoing rate of Sustained Change.
III. Sudden vs. Sustained Change in Presidents
There are certain societal changes that are Qualitative; most are just Quantitative.
The shift from Eisenhower to JFK was qualitative – JFK was the first US President born
in the 20th Century, and in his inaugural speech said, “The torch has been passed to a
new generation – a generation born in this century.”
The transition from GHW Bush to Pres. Clinton was qualitative – Clinton was the first
President born more recently than 1924!!!!!!!
The transition from GWBush to Obama is qualitative – Obama, technically a Boomer
born in 1961, is the first Gen-Xer, a POST-WAR PRAGMATIST.
HIS GENERATION IS A PRAGMATIC GENERATION, MUCH LESS IDEOLOGICAL.
HE WILL SEEK OUT POLICIES THAT WORK, NOT SIMPLY THOSE THAT FIT HIS
THAT IS CHARACTERISTIC OF HIS GENERATION.
It is not characteristic of the baby boom generation that preceded him.
IV. LOVE, FAITH, HOPE AND TRUST
I’ll open these 2009 visuals with exactly the slide that closed this same topic in 1994 –
here is video footage from a presentation that I did that year. (Yes, I’m the guy with all
that dark hair):
I will say again the theme of the talk, then and now –
You do not motivate the electorate or the work force thru your values, you
motivate them thru their values. That is more of a challenge in this society than ever
before anywhere, due to the rate of SUSTAINED change within which we live.
That final photograph that I projected in 1994 shows a black boy and a blonde white
girl eagerly volunteering to respond. In 2007, a blonde white woman and a black man
did exactly that in the primary campaign. I was asking for the acceptance of a new
world 15 years ago, one in which white males like me would no longer control
everything. It’s here; we’ve arrived.
In 1994, I said that the bottom line would be a function of love, faith, hope – and
ABOVE ALL TRUST.
Well, how’s the bottom line doing?
We have gone from a balanced budget and a surplus into a trillion dollar annual deficit
and unimaginable indebtedness; national and global net worth has declined by trillions
of dollars; corporate executives, having managed their businesses into disaster, ask for
socialist welfare as they arrive in private jets and prepare multimillion dollar bonuses
for one another. And the public responds with outrage at such a conspicuous, visible
breach of trust.
V. YOU JUST CAN’T GET GOOD MANAGEMENT ANYMORE
Once there was heard in the land the cry, “You just can’t get good help anymore!”
My father ran a service station – and I mean service station, not gas station; if you are
from an earlier generation, you know the difference. My father wore a uniform and tie
to work every day of his life, and if he got dirty he came home to change.
My dad retired early because he could no longer find employees who would meet his
exacting standards. Had you asked him, he would have said we were heading to Hell
in a handbasket due to laziness and sloppy standards; he would have been wrong.
That handbasket was woven not by the workers at the bottom but by the geniuses at
the top – not by the worker drones but by the best and the brightest.
You may recognize that phrase as the title of David Halberstam’s seminal work. He
recently noted that it has become a compliment, whereas he meant it ironically – that
the best and the brightest, in the era of the 60s, led us into tragic errors.
It’s happened again. We are not in economic troubles due to the laziness of the
youngest generations, but due to the ethical abuses of the earlier generations, the
generations in charge – the brightest guys in the room.
VI. I SEE THE WORLD THRU THE WORLD I’VE SEEN
The Authoritarian Generations, born before the Depression, designed the system
within which we live and work. They were Transformational Leaders – they
transformed us from the Agricultural Era into the Industrial Era. They designed the new
era according to 19th century notions of the nature of Nature and of People.
They were right; they did it right; it worked.
But the generations who followed them – THE DEPRESSION BABIES - continued to
make the same decisions because that was the way it had always been done, and
because they shared their assumptions about the nature of Nature – infinite supply,
indefinite expansion, unlimited growth; the path to sustainability was to raise the level
But unless you introduce new technologies that do not consume the Earth’s resources
and do not destroy its atmosphere and balance, you’re just working against time.
Think about it – our economy is based on the assumption of infinite growth.
Infinite growth means infinite consumption. Infinite consumption means infinite
consumption of Earth’s resources.
But Earth and its resources are finite.
How can we sustain, indefinitely, the infinite consumption of finite resources?
VII. THE GENERATION OF DE-GENERATION
The American people never elected a Depression Baby to be President of the United
States – John McCain was the last shot of that generation. There are also no
Depression Babies in the pantheon of great leaders in the private sector.
The American auto industry imploded because it was based on the values of the
Authoritarian pre-WWII generations. Those values were built into the system of large
manufacturing corporations; the Depression Babies who then succeeded in that
system did so because they bought into those values. Those values – values born in
the 19th century - are maladaptive in the 21st Century!
THE AUTO COMPANIES ARE CALLED THE BIG THREE. HOW BIG? SO BIG THAT
THEY FORM WHO YOU ARE, NOT THE OPPOSITE. TO SUCCEED IN THE
SYSTEM, YOU CONFORM TO THE SYSTEM, YOU DO NOT FORM THE SYSTEM.
YOUR VALUES ARE FORMED FROM INSIDE THE SYSTEM LOOKING INWARD,
NOT FROM LOOKING OUT AT THE WORLD OR BY SEEING THE SYSTEM FROM
OUTSIDE IT. YOU LOOK INWARD AT THE SYSTEM AND THAT FORMS HOW YOU
SEE THE OUTSIDE WORLD.
THE HIGHER YOU RISE IN A CORPORATION AS LARGE AS THE BIG THREE, THE
MORE ISOLATED YOU BECOME – YOU ARE ISOLATED FROM THE WORLD IN
WHICH YOUR WORKERS LEAD THEIR LIVES, OF COURSE; YOU’RE ALSO
ISOLATED FROM CONTACT WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT FROM YOU,
WHO THINK DIFFERENTLY, WHO SEE THE WORLD DIFFERENTLY.
Major corporate CEOs are like spiritual gurus. Gurus are people who start out being
especially sensitive, people who have a rare sensibility. They do see and hear and
know differently from normal, ordinary folk. But then those ordinary folk begin to cluster
around in adoration.
Slowly they seal off the guru, who eventually has no more contact with ordinary reality,
with the daily demands and activities of life, with a world in which they are not adored.
As this happens, they become more and more exalted, their experience more and
more rarefied, their personalities less and less socially attuned – weirder and weirder.
It’s at this point that the outside world begins to note their aberrations and
eccentricities, and to judge them negatively, to lampoon the gifts that initiated the
process of exaltation. (Remember Bhagwan Sri Rajneesh and how he was seen?
He was once a brilliant and profoundly insightful man.)
The same thing happens to CEOs; their interactions with the world are more and more
restricted, their power and influence distorts their experience of human interaction,
their lives resemble other lives less and less – they are surrounded by privilege,
deference and obeisance on a continuous basis. The infinite array of management
books are not directed at them and are not read by them – those are for the underlings.
Management principles are reified down thru an organization, not up. Oh, there are
management books that urge that business values, like democracy, should percolate
up, but those appeal to those at the bottom.
VIII. WE GAVE OUR CHILDREN ALL WE NEVER HAD
It has long been the American Dream to give your children all you never had – AND
WE SUCCEEDED. In Post-WW II America, it was no longer necessary to work to
survive, you could take that for granted.
Now you worked to have all those things you never had, and since you already had so
very much, you were working to HAVE, not to BE - to thrive, not just survive. How often
have you heard that one – “Otherwise, it’s just surviving.” But that could not always
have been taken for granted.
We continued the upward spiral, and the next generation was reared in the presence of
all that affluence. Affluence surrounded them to such a degree that they assumed it;
they took it for granted. Now, to live was to have.
And so the circuit was complete:
IX. OH, IT’S LONELY AT THE TOP
The US is in financial crisis. Why?
Mismanagement at the top. Why?
Are they stupid? No.
Are they ignorant? No.
Are they malevolent, just bad people? No.
Do we need more management books? No.
We have shelves and libraries full of management bibles, from One Minute Manager to
Are they filled with good ideas? Yes.
Did anybody read them? Maybe not, but they bought them.
Did the very most powerful people read them? Who knows?
Did they follow them? No.
Why not? Two reasons:
As just noted, CEOs are like spiritual gurus and kings and presidents – the higher they
go, the more isolated they become. They are less and less exposed to alternate
viewpoints and opposing judgments and opinions.
They are revered, they are obeyed, they are pampered. Their judgment is based on
their world, not the larger world.
Point Two: The largest corporations are based on assumptions about the size of the
population, the availability of resources, and the nature of Nature and of people that
are 150 years old. Those assumptions were so successful in that era that we got
Management mistakes follow from management philosophy, which follows from a more
general set of values. The values of 19th century America, when frontiers seemed
limitless and resources infinite, do not serve 21st century America.
The Japanese are newer into the Industrial Era, so they are able to adapt and adjust.
The Europeans live in smaller countries, are multicultural and multilingual, so are more
adaptive. They are more accustomed to compromise and moderation and – most
important – the Europeans, due to limited frontiers and resources – are accustomed to
limitation. They see it as reality, not as debility.
X. INFOCHILDREN ARE PREPARED
The newest generations are not more isolated; they are more in touch. Instantly. They
are in touch with a larger reality, with a larger circle, with a global input. They text
rather than call, which allows multitasking and multiple presences.
They are not in one place at once; they are everywhere at once. I mean that – they are
everywhere at once.
There are few places or peoples on the planet with which or with whom they cannot be
in touch in a moment.
They are not likely to be satisfied or fulfilled by a narrow focus or a fixed routine.
There will now be attention paid to technology as an entity, like commerce, labor, state,
energy. This would have been unthinkable by earlier generations – and I mean
LITERALLY unthinkable; we couldn’t think of it.
Technology is central to our lives now; our future rests on it – and on that 10 year old
whom you call upon to program your new phone or DVR…..
Copyright 2009, Dr. Layne Longfellow