Cultural Quick Tip: Craft Your Message With Purpose

An enduring whimsical tradition that many people are familiar with is the act of placing a written message in a bottle and tossing it into the sea. The composer of the message has no idea who is going to receive the message or when they might get it -if anyone will at all. Not knowing the end recipient of the message limits the ability to communicate with intention. The message is written with little understanding of the end recipient, and created in a way that therefore may not be very effective. Communication across differences is often done in a similar fashion. However, taking time to think about who, when, and how a message will be received allows the sender to craft a much more effective message that will produce much better results.

Action Step:
Stop and think about the characteristics of an audience and the best methods for communicating with them before communicating across differences such as generation, culture or language.

Generational Quick Tip: Work Assets

Each generation brings unique skills, talents, and areas of expertise to the workplace.  It can be very helpful, when putting together an effective multi-generational team, to have an idea of what each generation’s work assets are, so that team members compliment and support each other’s skill sets. Baby-boomers bring experience to the team and are also very good at creatively breaking down the big picture into assignments. They are also great leaders and spokespeople as they are politically savvy and well connected.  Generation X are great task managers and wonderful at solving short term problems. When given the right information and tools, they produce very high quality work on their portion of a project with minimal assistance or management. Generation Y is great at collaboration. They are extremely creative, friendly, and very in tune with the consumer mentality. They are excellent multi-taskers and highly skilled in technological know-how.

Action Step:
Being aware of the work assets each generation brings to the workplace can help you to create an all-star multi-generational team.

Cultural Quick Tip: Use Intuition to Foster Better Teamwork

In the sport of barrel racing when a horse and rider are working well together, the horse will intuitively move under the rider if it feels the rider start to fall. This automatic response is only possible due to the bond and unspoken communication that develops between a horse and a rider through the many hours of practicing together. These countless hours of practice build a connection that allows horse and rider to communicate with each other using minute adjustments in weight and pressure. When you devote time and effort to communicating with a colleague, especially one from a background different than your own, you can improve the fluency of your communication and eventually be able to detect minute changes in these communications. Like a horse and rider, you will then be able to move intuitively to help each other when needed and often without being asked.

Action Step:
Ask follow-up questions to deepen your understanding of your colleague’s communication style.

Generational Quotes

“I’m speaking for all of us. I’m the spokesman for a generation.”
-Bob Dylan

“The young very seldom lead anything in our country today. It’s been quite some time since a younger generation pushed an older one to a higher standard.”
-Wynton Marsalis, Jazz Musician

“And I know that the younger generation is doing things that are so ingenious. And for them it’s not a matter of a political belief or an environmental stance. It’s really just common sense.”
-Daryl Hannah, Actress

“This wired generation is kind of cool.”
-LeVar Burton, Actor

“If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology. We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it.”
-Lyndon B. Johnson, U.S. President

Significant People of a Generation: Gen X – Ronald Reagan

“The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.” -President Ronald Reagan in his speech responding to the 1986 Challenger Shuttle disaster

Ronald Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois on February 6, 1911. As a youth, his father nicknamed him “Dutch” because of his “Dutchboy” haircut. He had an older brother, Neil.  His mother Nelle was very religious and raised Ronald in the Disciples of Christ faith. He attended Dixon High School and Eureka College in nearby Eureka, IL. He was considered very talented at many different things: theater, debate, campus politics, swimming and football.  He graduated from college in 1932 with a degree in economics and sociology.

After college, Reagan worked as a sports caster for the radio station at University of Iowa. With his persuasive and powerful voice, he eventually landed the job of announcer for the Cubs baseball games on WHO radio.  In 1937, while traveling with the Cubs in California, Reagan took a screen test and won a seven-year contract with Warner Brother studios. Within the first two years of his career in Hollywood, Reagan had appeared in 19 films, including Dark Victory with Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis. In 1940, he played the role George “The Gipper” Gipp in Knut Rocknew, All American, which earned him the lifelong nickname “The Gipper.” In 1939, Reagan met his first wife, actress Jane Wyman, in the film Brother Rat. The couple had three children and they were married for 10 years.

From 1942-1945 Reagan was on active duty in the 18th Army Air Force Base Unit (a.k.a the First Motion Picture Unit).  He was never sent overseas due to problems with his vision, but he was well suited for the army and he was promoted to captain in 1943. In 1947, upon his return to Hollywood, Reagan was elected president of the Screen Actor’s Guild. In 1949, he and his first wife divorced, allegedly over arguments about his political aspirations. He is the only US President to have been divorced.  In 1949, he met Nancy Davis, an actress who came to him at the Screen Actor’s Guild for help regarding issues with her name being falsely Hollywood blacklisted. They were married in 1952 and had two children. Charlton Heston once said theirs was “probably the greatest love affair in the history of the American Presidency.”

During the 1950s, Reagan’s film career began to dwindle, so he turned to television. He was hired as the host of General Electric Theater. However, Reagan’s interests began to shift to the political arena. Originally a staunch Democrat, Reagan switched his political affiliation in 1962 because his view on the free market, anticommunism, and limited government changed so drastically working in the corporate television world, as well as the influence of Nancy’s conservatism.  In 1964, Regan endorsed Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater and delivered his famous “Time for Choosing Speech.”  His successful speech caught the eye of California Republicans and he successfully ran for Governor of California in 1966.  During his years a governor, Reagan is known for his brutal crackdown on anti-establishment college protests, particularly at U.C. Berkeley.

In 1976, Ronald Reagan turned his ambitions to the Republican candidacy for President. However, he was not able to win the candidacy over incumbent President Gerald Ford, who eventually lost the election to Democrat Jimmy Carter.  In 1981, Reagan ran for president against Jimmy Carter and won on his “I believe in states rights” campaign.  On March 30, 1981, only 69 days into Reagan’s administration, John Hinkley, Jr shot President Ronald Reagan outside of the Washington Hilton Hotel in an assassination attempt. Press Secretary James Brady, Officer Thomas Delehanty, Special Agent Jerry Parr, and Agent Timothy McCarthy were also wounded in the attempt to save the president. Rushed to the hospital, Reagan survived a critical gunshot would to the chest.  His approval rating after the assassination rose to an astounding 73%.

President Reagan served two terms from 1981-1989. During his eight years in office, he is noted for making many historically influential decisions.  His applied “Reaganomics” were supply-side economics that reduced government spending and regulation; federal income taxes; and capital gain taxes to control inflation. Many believed the Reagan years to be the period of most economic prosperity in the US, while many others believe that these policies created superficial economic growth that would later cause many problems for the economy.  During his presidency, the Cold War escalated with the more aggressive tactics of the “Reagan Doctrine.” Famously, in 1987, Reagan challenged U.S.S.R.  General Secretary Gorbachev to “tear down this wall!” and in 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. The pressure of the Reagan doctrine revealed the U.S.S.R’s unstable economy and disorganized government and armed forces, while still maintaining a balance to avoid war.

After the presidency, Nancy and Ronald Reagan lead a relatively quiet life in their home in Bel Air, Los Angeles.  In 1998, 84-year-old Ronald Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, and on June 5, 2004, died of pneumonia related to Alzheimer’s Disease at the age of 93. There tends to be a stark partisan divide in the interpretation of Reagan’s presidential legacy.  However, he is universally an emblem of the decade from 1980-1990 and a powerful figure to the young generation growing up at this time.

April 21: Akshaya Tritiya (Jain)

Jainism is an ethical belief system concerned with the moral life of an individual.  The object in life for Jains is to renounce materialistic needs, so that they eventually achieve bliss, or moksha. Traditionally known as Jaina dharma, the belief system is one of the oldest known religions, dating back to 3,000 BCE, and was founded in India.  An interesting anecdote about Jains is that as a population they have the highest literacy rate in India, 94.1% compared to the national average of 65.38%. In India.  There are approximately 5.1 million Jains in India.  Outside of India there are
approximately 240,000 Jains.

Akshaya Tritiva is a holy day for Jains that is worshiped because it is said to have established the very first “ahar charya”, a methodology for preparing and serving food to Jain Monks.  The day commemorates the very first Monk, Tirthankara Rishabhadeva, who meditated and fasted to obtain enlightenment.  He broke his fast with sugarcane juice, but only when he was offered this drink by a member of the community.  This started the tradition where Jain Monks are not allowed to cook for themselves nor ask for food, but they may go around the community and accept food if offered, this practice is called Ahar.  Many Jains observe this day by fasting and giving to charity.

Significant Events of a Generation: Gen Y – Y2K

   “I came here today because I wanted to stress the urgency of the challenge…Clearly, we must set forth what the government is doing, what business is doing, but also what all of us have yet to do to meet this challenge together. And there is still a pressing need for action.” – President Bill Clinton, in a speech about Y2K at the National Academy of Sciences, July 15,1998

As the approach of the 21st Century loomed in the distance, there was widespread speculation that the date change to the year 2000, as cataloged by computers and other digital technology, would result in worldwide technological failure. Y2K was the first threat of widespread calamity due to technological failure, causing the world to face its vulnerability as a society reliant upon technology in the new digital era. What would happen if all the computers failed to operate at the turn of the clock?

Before 1996, many computer programs stored years with only two decimals, so that 1960 would read 60, and so forth. Therefore, when these programs reached the year 2000, they would not be able to distinguish between 00 as 2000, or 13000000, or 1800, etc. The resulting faulty date logic could cause computer systems to produce incorrect results or fail. Since much of modern societies’ utilities and crucial infrastructures are reliant upon computer systems to function, the result of widespread computer failure would be disastrous on a global scale. As programmers started to become aware of a potential problem, the British Standards Institute developed the “Year 2000 Conformity” standards, stating that “the century must be unambiguous, either specified or calculable by algorithm.” Companies, governments, and organizations all over the world set to fixing and upgrading their computer systems. There was amazing effort and collaboration to quickly make sure that major industries were squared away, as well as an estimated $300 billion spent globally .  However, there were still concerns as to whether the precautions would work at the turn of the millennium.

The response to the threat of Y2K from the general populous varied. Some people were not concerned or convinced that Y2K would be an issue, while many were swept up in the media’s sensationalism. For those who were concerned about shut-down, precautions varied. Sales in solar electricity equipment increased 110% in the two-year span from 1998-99.  A Scripps and Howard News Service National Survey taken 6 months before January 1, 2000 found that 36% of people would avoid flying a commercial airliner and 34% would stock up on extra food. The more extreme responses, such as underground bunkers,  spawned a National Geographic series called “Doomsday Preppers.” However, when the clock counted down to January 1, 2000, there were luckily no devastating results due to the Y2K bug because of the thorough precautionary measures that had been taken.

Though Y2K is often remembered by poking fun at the sensationalism, it is also a great example of how the world rallied quickly and efficiently to prevent global disaster. The Y2K scare was an example of international commitment and collaboration that quickly eradicated a global threat. Let us hope that governments and corporations worldwide will be willing to invest as much money and sense of urgency to fixing our current impending environmental threats and to upgrading the way we view our role as a species on this planet.

Whats Currently Trending with Gen Y

Human Workplace
“The Truth About Millenials”

This article written by Liz Ryan, CEO of Human Workplace, is outlines how millennials bring a refreshingly truthful perspective and honest look at old, established workplace standards, protocols, and policies. She explains that they do not accept established rules for the sake of accepting them, but instead have an “appetite to reinvent crusty systems for a human-powered era [that] is exactly what our organizations need.”

Today Money
“Gen Y Women: Sexism Exists at Work, but Not in My Office”

This article, written by Allison Lin of Today Money, outlines how the gender discrimination in work tends to occur later down the career path for older women. A recent Pew Report showed that 60% of millennial women believe that men earn more for the same work, yet a new report showed that only 15% of millennial women age 18-32 felt that they had been discriminated against at their workplace. Why the gap? For the most part, millennial men and women tend to have more equal wages, whereas professionals who are older with more experience tend to note a much more significant wage gap between men and women.

Tinder

Tinder is the next generation of online dating and apparently, users who have the app, are addicted to it. When you sign up for Tinder, it uses information from facebook and crosses that information with Tinder users in the local area of the user at the moment of signing in. The user can rate profiles they like or reject profiles they don’t like. If both profiles are a match, the people can start a private conversation and maybe meet-up.  It combines the entertainment of rating people’s profiles with the ability to actually meet-up with someone in the vicinity if it is a good match.  According to recent data, the Tinder app is downloaded 200,000 times a day and the user population is growing steadily.

Gen X is from Mars, Gen Y is from Venus: A Primer on How to Motivate Millennials
Forbes

This article interviews a Gen X and Gen Y employee and assesses how they both have very different cultural backgrounds and viewpoints on the workplace. It also offers some very insightful tips on how to approach these differences, including “the benefit of shifting from ‘a command and control style to a more inclusive management philosophy.’”

 

Cultural Quick Tip: Create Structure to Help Bridge Barriers

Foosball is a tabletop soccer game featuring players that are fixed in position, meaning that each player can only cover a predetermined area. Flexibility, adapting or helping out are all out of the question. This lack of flexibility is similar in some ways to teams that are spread out over multiple locations or across borders, as their interactions are also limited in a predetermined way. The lack of face-to-face interaction reduces the team’s ability to adjust and adapt as quickly as a team that is located all at one site. In situations like this, having a clearly defined structure detailing everyone’s role and responsibilities is a key to success. Having this structure articulated will also help bridge language and cultural barriers that impact global teams.

Action Step:
Have clearly defined roles, responsibilities and goals when working on a team that is scattered across multiple sites.

Generational Quotes

“Use your lives wisely, my friends, and conserve these precious freedoms for future generations.”
-Ted Nugent, Musician

“Education can counteract the natural tendency to do the wrong thing, but the inexorable succession of generations requires that the basis for this knowledge be constantly refreshed.”
-Garrett Hardin, Ecologist

“The year I was born, 1956, was the peak year for babies being born, and there are more people essentially our age than anybody else. We could crush these new generations if we decided too.”
-Tom Hanks, Actor

“The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.”
-Abraham Lincoln

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”
-Robert Kennedy

Generational Quick Tip: Flexibility Incentives for All Generations

Studies have shown that Gen Y employees greatly desire flexibility in the workplace as a major criterion for selecting employment. However, what is not commonly discussed is that all generations in the workplace, not just Gen Y, find great value in flexibility and flextime, though for different reasons. Baby-Boomers desire flexibility because it allows them time to pursue their interests and spend time with grandchildren or other family members. Gen X employees want flextime because they may be caring for elderly parents or children, or are looking for better work-life balance. And the young Gen Y constituency desire time outside of work to partake in hobbies, activities, and have enough time to socialize.  It is important that employees of all generations understand that flexibility benefits everyone and is not just an incentive given to Gen Y to meet recruitment demands.

Action Step:
When creating policies that offer more flexibility and flextime, make sure you appeal to all employees as a company-wide incentive and not just in targeting new hires.

Generational Quick Tip: Communication Styles

Each generation in the workplace will have very different communication styles because of their cultural background and how they view themselves in the workplace. Baby-boomers, who have been around the block, are diplomatic and politically correct. They like connecting with people in person.  Generation X, however, is more blunt and direct in their communication style. They like to present facts and straightforward language. They like to use email because it is efficient and timesaving. Having grown up in a quickly changing world, Generation Y prefers short communication interactions such as text messages. If they are communicating on email for work, their style will be more informal. They will not seek out in-person meetings unless a detailed conversation is needed.

Action Step:
Making the effort to learn how another generation communicates and taking strides to be conscientious in your communication could greatly open up your ability to communicate successfully with people from all generations.

Cultural Quick Tip: Adapt to Collaborate

Films are based upon the foundation of the screenplay. While the screenplay is the script and the game plan for the film, the work of turning the screenplay into a movie generates ideas that improve upon the screenplay. All great screenplays become better during the process of making them into a movie. The improvements come from the production team being able to recognize and utilize the new ideas created by the work of making the film. Like having a screenplay for a film, it is important to have a well thought-out plan for complex, collaborative projects to ensure a smooth execution. This is especially true for projects that involve groups of people with diverse backgrounds because the group will examine the work from a multitude of unique points of view. As the project commences, remember to keep an open mind and remain flexible to inspired ideas that improve upon the original plan.

Action Step:
When collaborating on a project, keep an open mind to ideas that improve upon the original plan.

Significant People of a Generation: J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling, or Joanne Rowling, is the author of the Harry Potter series and one of the richest, most successful women in the world. Her books have been especially influential on the young Generation Y that grew up reading her series and came-of-age along with the young heroes of the story.  Not only Gen Y, but generations young and old all around the world have been touched by these tales of epic heroism and magical wonder. Along with her series, Rowling’s personal rags-to-riches story has inspired many to believe in following their dreams, making her an icon the world over.

J.K. Rowling  was born on July 31, 1965, in a small town English town called Yate, 12 miles northeast of Bristol.  At the age of four, her family moved to Winterbourne, where Rowling and her younger sister, Dianne, attended St. Michael’s Primary School. At secondary school, Rowling was made Head Girl and enjoyed reading and writing. It was during these formative years in her early to late teens that she met many of the friends that inspired the main characters her books.  From early childhood onward, Rowling wrote many fantasy stories and read them to her sister. However, Rowling’s parents encouraged her to view story making as a fun hobby rather than a viable course of study.

In 1982, she attended college at University of Exeter for Foreign Language studies, during which time she claims to have done no work and instead, spent time reading Dickens and Tolkien and scribbling stories at the local cafes and pubs. However, professors claim that Rowling was a competent, bright student. In 1986, Rowling moved to London and worked for Amnesty International as a bilingual secretary. It was an experience that greatly impacted her and can be seen in the dark themes of human rights violations and political injustice in her books.

Shortly thereafter, she moved with her boyfriend to Manchester. It was on the four-hour train trip from Manchester to London that the idea for the Harry Potter series “came fully formed” into her mind and that evening she began to write the first installment of the series.  A couple months into her starting the book, Rowling’s mother died after a ten-year long battle with multiple sclerosis.  Rowling claims that the event made her sympathize with Harry as an orphan and that she added darker, more realistic emotions about death throughout the series as she dealt with her own mother’s passing.

While continuing to write her first book, J.K. Rowling moved to Portugal to teach English in the evenings and write her novel in the daytime. On October 16, 1992, she married a Portuguese journalist and had a child together, Jessica Isabel Rowling Arantes, on July 27, 1993. After a tumultuous relationship, rumored to be physically abusive, Rowling filed for divorce 13 months after her marriage and moved to Edinburgh to live near her sister.  This was a very dark period in Rowling’s life, where she claims felt like a complete failure. She was living off of welfare and could barely support herself and her young child.  She also suffered from clinical depression and often had suicidal thoughts. However, it was during this time that she truly devoted herself to her novel, a devotion that she was only able to realize “because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential.” (J.K. Rowling, Harvard Commencement Speech, 2008).

In 1995, Rowling finished the manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The manuscript was picked up by Bloomsbury publishing house in London. Allegedly, they chose to pick-up the book after the eight-year-old daughter of Bloomberg’s chairman read the first chapter and demanded to read the next immediately. In 1997, the first 1,000 copies of the book were printed. The book was awarded the Smarties Book Prize and won the prestigious British Book Award for Children’s Book of the Year. In 1998, the book was picked up by Scholastic and began circulation in the United States. With the money from these successes, Rowling was able to move out of her apartment and get a nice home in Edinburgh.

The next two installments of the book series, Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban, both won the Smarties Award and showed increased sales. However, it was not until the fourth book, Goblet of Fire that sales records in the United States and the UK began to skyrocket. Within the first 48 hours in the US, the book sold three million copies, historically breaking all literary sales records by a huge margin.  Subsequently, the rest of the series only grew in popularity and continued to break sales records. The sixth book of the series sold nine million copies in the first 24 hours and the final book , finished on January 11, 2007, sold eleven million copies on the first day.

Since then, the Harry Potter global brand has grown to be worth more than $15 billion. It has been turned into eight feature length films and a Universal Studio theme park. At one point, Rowling was marked as one of a handful of top British billionaires. However, she has since donated vast amounts of her money to various philanthropic causes and is now only in the top 1,000 richest people in Britain. (Still, not bad considering her humble beginnings.) She remarried in 2001 and had two more children. She lives quietly with her family, and continues to write.

Cultural Quick Tip: Teach Team Shorthand to New Team Members

The deck of an aircraft carrier is one of the most dangerous places to work, as it requires precise and exact communication in order to safely land planes on a pitching deck in high winds. To an outsider, it may look chaotic, but this setting has been refined over time to be a highly organized workplace. One part of this success is the crew’s use of a shorthand communication style that has its own vernacular, acronyms, hand signals and subtext. While most work teams operate in a fairly safe work environment, they still develop their own compressed language that allows team members to communicate quickly and easily with each other. When outsiders join the team, this shorthand may be hard to understand or learn resulting in conflict and frustration, especially if people are from different cultural backgrounds. It is important when bringing new people onto a team that the team’s shorthand is shared with them.

Action Step:
Collect the acronyms and vernacular unique to your team so that new team members can quickly learn your team shorthand.