Anne Boysen is the founder of After the Millennials, the first consultant service and blog designated specifically to understanding our youngest generation. Using an original method drawn from strategic foresight and data analytics,
Anne dives deep into social statistics, trend spotting, and data mining to advice businesses and non-profits on how to act on early signs of change. She shares her insights as an advisor, and via consulting projects and keynotes around the world.
Boysen (BOY-SON) also works as an Alliance Partner for the Pearson Strategy Group, LLC and is the Vice President of the Central Texas chapter of the World Future Society. She holds a Masters in Futures Studies from University in Houston and additional graduate-level education in Business Analytics and Data Mining.
Hello and Welcome to the Dr. Nilda Business Foresight show today I have a very special person here who specializes in Generation-Z I want to also welcome my co-host Rachel Calderon Hello Rachel.
Good Morning everyone, how are you?
I want to tell you a little bit about Anne Boysen who is a very fascinating person she Anne Boysen is the founder of “After the Millennials” the first consulting service and blog designated specifically to understanding our youngest generation I think if any of us have young children we get that we don’t get them. She uses an original method drawn from strategic foresight and data analysis and dives deep into the social statistics, trendspotting a data mining to advise businesses and nonprofits on how to act on early signs of change. She shares her insights as an adviser via consulting projects and keynotes around the world. Boysen also works as an alliance partner for the Pearson Strategic Group. She is the vice president of the central Texas chapter of the world’s future society and she holds a master’s in future studies from Texas in Houston, in an additional graduate level at education in business analytics and data mining. I think this is fascinating! So Welcome Anne, how are you?
I’m good Thank you so much for having me here.
It is fascinating to have you. I love the fact that you actually understand Generation-Z. You’re probably an anomaly because I think it is I know a lot of parents will have no clue.
Yes! She is correct on that.
So this is great I tell you, so Anne I want to start with the first question which is why, again, if this is such a big thing to be able to understand or try to understand Generation-Z because there are so many people that don’t understand them, and mainly the parents who no idea, I mean what’s going on with these kids then there’s so many changes. So you, come from that foresight and you actually are understanding them, so, I want know, how do you do this and tell me a little bit about why you do this and how you do it?
Well, so I think maybe that is the reason why I’m focusing on this particular area of foresight is because I don’t really understand them. So, it’s been a quest for quite a while for me to figure them out. Now one thing that I realized very quickly as a futurist, by the way a futurist, as a futurist I don’t really involve myself with making a whole lot of predictions. I’m more interested in trying to understand the how different people tick. I felt this was very important early in my career as a newly minted futurist because I felt that you can’t just document the trends themselves you have to understand how the different trends in the environment such as technology and environmental issues how this happens in reaction with social trends. Like how are people adopting or how are people reacting to you to this external forces? and I felt that there was a need to do a little bit more rigorous research into this domain and specifically maybe when it comes to understanding next generation, because very often when a new generation, with new experiences, with different experiences, are entering a sort of a new life face they bring with them a certain set of values and attitudes and behaviors that might seem a little foreign. I felt as a professional I felt this need wasn’t very strong but maybe even more personally I think it was even more compelling for me as a parent. because this were years that my children were born. They were post 911, then we had a big recession, and the world started to become a very different place. Technology was taken off, we had suddenly had digital devices, and social media and the world was just a totally different place. And, so you know a lot of the parenteral to child advisory very often is based on the world that we recognize from when we were younger, Right?
The problem is that the world has changed so much that world does no longer exist and so if we’re going to be able to advise our children, or employees, or if you’re gonna understand our new markets, or voters in whatever capacity we need to really understand how they tick. And it is it to say well okay we’ll just talk to the younger people themselves and you will get a lot of good answers that way the problem is they cannot contextualize themselves. We have been through that stage we know what it means try to leave it in the 80s and the 90s and the 2000s they can only understand it from their own perspective, so we need to sort of be anthropologist into their world and that’s what motivates me.
oh, I love it! oh my goodness you know I never thought of that but you’re right an anthropologist. Their world, our world they have no concept whatsoever of the things, that we’ve lived through the difference, we’ve lived through the changes, but this has been a constant for them.
Which is why a one-year-old can grab your phone and be able to program it better than you can.
Yeah, so from a STEEP perspective STEEP being you know the social, technological, environmental, economical, and political from that perspective. Where do you feel socially we’re in a totally different world and we still live between both because we still pull a lot from our background but, Generation-Z doesn’t do that? So, tell me a little bit about that? Where do you feel it’s different for kids from this perspective?
So, I very often get asked so, you know there’s been a lot of research on Millennials and the childhood of Millennials are very different from that childhood experiences of Generation-Z because you know they grew up after 9/11 and you know in a totally different world. It was different growing up in the eighties in the nineties. So, the question I typically get is, how are Gen-Z different from Millennials? and I want to say that some trends are continuing, and some trends are actually, you know we reach a peak, and then we’re going back. We’re starting to see some signs that or maybe not back, we’re going in a new direction. As futurists we’re familiar with the s-curve, where you know a trend barely starts and then it really takes off and then it slows down and maybe that goes back a little bit. So, depending on where the trend is on that s-curve that is kind of like where you can kind of imagine where Generation-Z is at the moment. Then mostly what people are interested in, how are they changing things how is Generation-Z changing in response to these trends. And, I want to say that I believe that where they are representing a big difference is there were two founding experiences in their childhood which are kind of, where we’re starting to see now and that their experiences with a recession of the 2008 and this is sort of like, this informs many many other different trends and the experiences with digital technology and social media. So, starting with a recession. You know I typically don’t like to say that we have a trend on this I’ve seen at least you know maybe two or three surveys or several you know data points that come together so you really start seeing a movement because they’re so easy to just you know, do one survey or ask a few kids here and there. Do you like this, do you don’t like you know, and then and then you get more or less random answers. So, I really like to see that there’s some substance, there really is to change, and one of the changes we’re seeing is that this is a much more risk-averse generation specifically when it comes to money. They’re very concerned of the value of money and again they don’t take continued growth for granted because they’ve seen they’ve seen foreclosures, they’ve seen you know suddenly you can lose your job overnight. They also know that a lot of the jobs that exist today is going to be automated they don’t take that for granted so that’s one area. We even actually see this in thrifting culture, so it used to be that young people wanted to put you know big brands, big logos you know on their clothes. Now it’s opposite they like to go thirsting. They like to go to three stores and say hey I got all at least this whole bag full of clothes for ten dollars, that gives status today, so that is interesting. We actually even see it in higher education, actually post peak education because these guys don’t know if they want to take a huge student loans to do get a degree in something that may or may not be around in terms of job security in the future.
So that’s something higher education really needs to look at and then the next and the other trend that has to do with digital technology that’s a very interesting area. Jean Twenge who is the professor at University of California she’s been studying generational trends for years and she had an article in the Atlantic this summer that went viral. She also had a book out about I-Generation and basically what her findings by looking at many trends, what she’s finding out is that there’s this very strong correlation between the enormous amount of time that kids today spent on their phones and their mental well-being which is a negative relationship there. So, you know there’s some there’s some reasons for concern and again I think it comes back to this generation being digital natives. I personally have some service to find some good things about it that it is empowering when you use the right way. They have access to a market out there, they have access to channels, they have access to you! They can do so much with technology but at the same time it is it is sort of like a social game that is always on you know, there’s always this comparison to other people you never get away, there’s always somebody you have to interact with positively or negatively, and you never get a break and this is contributing to their mental well-being and maybe not always in very good ways.
So, I have to agree with you there, I on the other hand by parenting I have been able to hold back my children I don’t necessarily have them on all social media. My kids now are adults but when they were younger I used to pull them away from all of that stuff because I knew that no matter how much you know this whole technology thing is, and social media I knew that at some point it wasn’t going to necessarily, what do they say an overload of something is always never good, there has to be a balance. I always believed in balance. Unfortunately, with a lot of working parents in our time you know 90s kids, or you know 80s kids we work and we have to work a lot to keep up with these houses and so we don’t even recognize sometimes what’s happening to our children. Our kids are getting sucked up like you said by this technology and they’re almost being desensitized.
Yeah and to that point Rachel, I have a question for Anne and that is many of our children Gen-Z there there’s no human interaction. I remember the kids when they were younger they would come over and we would have like dinner, let’s say like Thanksgiving or Sunday dinner and the kids were communicating via phone. Luckily, I think we had the wisdom of being able to pull the phones from them and say no we’re going to sit on the table we’re gonna talk. They were having a conversation but all of it was via their smartphone but today children are actually interacting that way and what I’m learning again I come from that behavioral health background as a therapist and I still do some therapy. I’m finding that the kids that are coming Gen-Z they’re finding it very difficult to communicate so I they’re actually texting, they’re actually texting me their answers when they’re sitting in front of me so they’re not disconnecting from that technology and I believe that some level that’s cause for concern.
mm-hmm Yes, I think that your absolutely and I think you’re right. What we are seeing though in some surveys is that we’re actually starting, you know I mentioned that s-curve. I think starting it’s starting to kind of slope off when it comes to if we had a variable that has to do with human interaction because if you compare the responses from older young Millennials to to Gen Z’s there are more likely to say that they prefer face-to-face interaction than digital interaction. So, trend is starting to move back again. One of the ways that we notice is, if you see young kids today they don’t text as much as they might want to be doing FaceTime. Example so FaceTime and video conferencing like we were doing now that is a very nice second best to human interaction because you know you can see each other’s faces, you can read each other’s faces, it’s the closest you get. But, when I talk to young people and I ask them what would you prefer to be with your friends in the same room or would you prefer to have this digital interface and all of them tell me that no we prefer being with each other. But, then mom has to drive me there because now we don’t let our kids outside anymore you know so we basically captivate them in the house. You know they’re responding to a childhood where they don’t have as much freedom but yeah, it’s a little bit of a laziness as well. Actually, a lot of laziness as well. Then there’s another thing we have to realize too when we look at the total hours that these kids spend on digital technology we tend to think of that as addiction and they themselves will actually label themselves addicted to a certain extent many of them well. However, this is important too is that when you and I come home from work we can kick the door in the world outside, we can turn on a Netflix show, have a nice drink, they can’t do that. It’s like those the world starts after school that’s when they have to respond to somebody’s new profile picture and drama and these goes on. So, to get back to Rachel’s point and I am not good at this myself by the way I’m probably the worst. You’ve heard of the plumber’s house is always broken.
I hear very often that kids want and their parents to intervene. They actually want to be able to tell their friends that I’m sorry it’s just that mom won’t let me be on the screen anymore. Sometimes that actually helped because it’s hard for them to communicate that. They get tired and exhausted being on those screens all the time and when parents, when you have that in place when you have those habits in place you are more, it’s easier on them sometimes. But, you have to have a culture for it at home cuz otherwise if you suddenly come in one day and say hey I’m gonna take a your screens away and it’s much harder.
Why do you think it’s important again with all this said or why do you think that it’s important to study generational change and to be able to understand the future from that perspective?
Again, I think it really comes back to social change and I think that in foresight or maybe not so much in foresight but in among many people who are in this business of trying to forecast the future or say interesting things about the future. We have a tendency to kind of zoom in on a few things like a few events or a few technologies like glitzy items you know and then we kind of all hone in on that. So, now it’s the Bitcoin, artificial intelligence now all of these technologies and everything that happens around us is mostly interesting in the context of human beings. It’s human beings, it’s big masses of human beings sexually that make a change. It’s not a technology or a trend itself can’t make a change it’s really just you know how humans react to it. I really just think and it’s not so much generation in itself. I’m againidentifying myself as the social scientist more than anything. So, I’m interested in gender issues. I’m interested in differences between the haves and the have-nots a geographical interest you know the differences. I think all this is very fascinating how certain type of people click together and some people don’t and depending on you know the circumstances and the variables behind it. But I think that generational change is very important because when young people come into a new life stage it’s a whole momentous shift because suddenly the all the people who were in the workforce for example and all the people who were graduate students all the people who were you know in this in this market now suddenly they’re entering a new life faze. It’s like moving, it’s a constant moving target and there are some presumptions made in this field where, every change or every difference between younger and older people is a general generational change. Some people will say it’s like oh it’s all generational change look at these twenty-year-old versus that 40 are all well you compare your twenty and a forty-year-old you’re gonna have differences. There are different life phases that some of that is going to always remain right?
Then you have others who might think that everything is just based on age difference. The fact that you compare a fifty-year-old with a twenty-year-old you’re going to have people in different life phases. So, there’s a little bit of each year and the interesting part is to figure out what is the onset of a new generational trend and what it’s just the fact that we’re aging and entering different life phases and it actually takes quite a bit of research to get to that point a lot of data and a lot of research.
I have one last question here because I know that we’re wrapping it up. What are some of the important social changes that are not covered in the media at the moment?
I think that many changes are covered to an extent, but I think, if I can rephrase it like what are we prepared for and what are we not prepared for? I think that a lot of it has to do with the workforce. You will read articles that tell us that we cannot find enough talents and then it will read in another article it will say we’re not going to have jobs in the future and of course people get confused. What is it what’s the truth and it’s actually a little bit of both. So, we are going to lack a lot of talents in many fields. Then were also going to have many jobs that are going to be automated. And, when you can automate one job or one aspects of one job you’re killing a whole, it’s not like you just take a few positions away you’re taking that whole piece away that it will not exist anymore. So, when, if I can find an example off the top of my head, back in in the 1800’s you had people who actually were hired to take out the gas lamps at night.When we didn’t use gas lamps anymore those jobs disappeared, and they were not be used anymore because we’re past that technology. That’s the same thing that’s happening really quickly right now. There are many different positions where we’re going to have huge unemployment but at the same time we are actually not getting enough young people to choose STEM related fields and stem stands for social, technology, engineering and mathematics.
In this in spite of all the initiatives that we have put forward to get more people actually it’s swinging a little bit back it’s getting a little bit better we’re starting to see some progress there but not near enough. So, of course it’s not only STEM there are other areas too, a lot of people fail to recognize that when we become highly automated there are certain skills that are on the complete different end of the skills that are going to be important and that is human emotions because this this is an area that you know you have interaction and then you have transaction so a lot of transacted jobs that only has to do with you know I’m dealing with you only because you know you’re helping me get a service or something or a product those jobs you know they might disappear but interactive. We talked a little bit about therapy you know yeah so kids might be texting the therapist and said while it’s did in the same room but at the same time you can’t automate the therapist you need that human there. The same thing with teachers I think a lot of us we are getting the elder boom. I am NOT one of those who believe that we’re going to get robots you know to take over all the nursing functions, I think that would be a great disservice to our elders you know. I don’t think I don’t think people want that so I think that there’s a lot of jobs that are going to be available in those sectors but those are some of those areas. I think the work future the work-related future we’re not totally we don’t fully see the path forward yet.
So, the best is yet to come, and I think this is where futuring is important to be able to understand the limitations of AI. Artificial intelligence will only be able to take us so far and so from that I think that’s a great way to start developing ideas for the future. That oftentimes is in careers especially for Gen Z what career will I go into and I think STEM related fields are excellent for them to go into because this is very progressive and they’re gonna need human beings to be able to run the machines to be able to run the artificial intelligence somebody has to feed it because it won’t do it by itself. So, you know I love that analogy though about the gas lights on the street right, because that’s it we’re shifting but making that shift just means that our job responsibilities our jobs will be changing not necessarily that we won’t have jobs.
That’s correct yeah, I agree with you. I think it’s just and actually it’s funny because a lot of kids today when you ask them what your career is going forward they said I’m going to invent my own job.
I love that beautiful. So Anne I want to thank you so much for coming here and to be able to speak to us about Gen-Z , I think a lot of parents will be very interested in this topic and not only that they’d be interested in this I really think this is going to help them to be able to help their children be able to make career choices and college choices. I’m 100% Pro education so you know I just don’t think you get enough so I totally support that. I think this is a great topic and I want to thank you so much for taking the time and talking to us.
Yes, Thank You Anne
Well thank you so much for having me it was a pleasure to be here.
Okay wonderful all right guys and I want to thank you for coming back and being able to join us with another episode with another fabulous futurists who has spoken today about Gen-Z. I look forward to next week and bringing you another guest next week until then bye.
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