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Acquire and Learn Information in the Multi-Generational Workplace

By Marc Miller

Acquire and Learn Information in the Multi Generational Workplace image acquire and learn information 300x225

How do you acquire and learn information?

How we acquire and learn information has changed drastically over the last fifty years. It also creates a huge rift in the workplace based on generational expectations of how it should be done.

This is the third in a series on the multi-generational workplace:

  • Multi-Generational Workplace
  • Communication Style in the Multi-Generational Workplace

Let’s look at the three most common generations in the workplace:

  • Baby Boomers
  • Generation X
  • Generation Y

How would each generation have answered the following question when they were in high school?

What is the capital of Madagascar?

Baby Boomers

If you are a baby boomer, you might remember fondly that first set of World Book encyclopedias you used. If you were special, you might have owned a set of Encyclopedia Britannica. They probably sat on a shelf in the den or a bedroom. In my case, they were in my brother’s bedroom. Each year, you would receive a yearbook that kept the contents of the set up to date.

The average baby boomer would have looked this question up in the encyclopedia. If someone asked you when you were away from home, you had to wait until you got home to make your discovery. However, you knew where to find the information.

Would you remember this piece of trivia? Probably!

A baby boomer would acquire and learn information by looking it up in a book.

Generation X

Generation X was the first generation that had access to online materials. In the early 1990′s came the rise of the CD-ROM. Encyclopedias start to go online. There was no Wikipedia just yet, but it was not far behind.

This was a very transformational time where information was not at your finger tips…but it was getting there.

A Generation X-er would have still looked this question up in some form of encyclopedia, which was often to be found online. They still probably had to go home to answer the question because they needed to look it up on the household desktop computer.

Would someone from Generation X remember this piece of trivia? Probably!

A Generation X-er would acquire and learn information online.

Generation Y

For Generation Y, there was no need for an encyclopedia. All you needed to do to answer this question is search the Internet.

I remember helping my son in 1996 work on a middle school project comparing Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, who were running for President. Everything he needed was available on the Internet. Who needed an encyclopedia?

When my son got to college, he was required to purchase a laptop computer. Search became ubiquitous.

A Generation Y-er would just search the Internet for the information!

Would someone from Generation Y remember this piece of trivia? Maybe or maybe not!

A Generation Y-er would acquire the information online, but may not learn it!

Why should they?

This is what pisses off a lot of baby boomers. Why don’t they have to remember it?

They can look it up again!

Information Revolution

I remember working for IBM in 1990. The new computer system I was working on had all of the documentation available on a CD for the first time. IBM at the time was the largest publisher of printed material in the world. The average computer system had 50-100 manuals. As a programmer or administrator, I needed to know about all of these manuals and at least know which manual had the information I needed. All I had to do was stick the CD in the CD-ROM and “search”. The information revolution had begun.

Generation Y has grown up with search available. Now it is available anytime and anywhere!

I now wonder how we got along without Google or Apple Maps applications. (Yes, I use the Apple map app on my iPhone!)

How has the ability to acquire and learn information affected your workplace?

Have you adapted?

Can we learn something from Generation Y?


Special Notice – Starting in December

I am initiating a free monthly teleconference where I will address a pressing topic and then take questions.

You will need to register for the event and you can provide a question ahead of time that I will be prepared to answer on the call.

The first call will be on Tuesday December 10, 2013 at 1 PM CT / 2 PM ET / 11 AM PT

Career Planning for 2014 – What you can be doing over the holiday season to prepare for 2014?

Register now

I plan on holding these once a month and generally keep them to under 1 hour.