What is wrong with the world

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jacob
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Post by jacob »

Dumbing down of IT
I'd say this problem extends far beyond just IT.


secretwealth
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Post by secretwealth »

I don't think that Gen Xers tend to gravitate towards simple solutions to complex problems--that sounds more like the Boomers to me.
If anything, Xers lack largescale vision. They're too pessimistic and cynical to be visionaries, largely due to growing up around multiple economic disasters and artificial bubbles of fake wealth.


mikeBOS
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Post by mikeBOS »

Generalizations about generations never ring true to me. Perhaps my experience is atypical.
But the fact that these generalizations always seem to come up in mass media opinion pieces, management fluff pieces, pop-psychology essays, and people who want to complain about older or younger people, makes me think it might just be in everyone's heads.
Though my personal sample isn't from people who've lived their lives in corporations. Perhaps the stereotypes are more accurate when you limit your pool to only employees of big companies?
But I mean, you're telling me, if you took a random sample of an equal number of boomers and millenials, the boomer group would have more "competitive" people and the millenials would have more "organized, achievement-oriented" people? Come on.
I think it's more that people get a stereotype in their head, think they're onto some kind of pattern out of the randomness, and then cherry pick their observations to fit the molds.


Surio
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Post by Surio »

@Jacob,

I agree with you/him about the cookbook mentality that leads to dumb down. I also agree that the dumbing down extends far beyond IT, but I don't see eye to eye with him in the way he frames the problem and the context.
All that Gen-X vs. Gen-Y vs. Boomer is just..... just.... I don't know...... cheap pot shots?!
I have seen pure Gen-X teams blowing up entire projects... And I have seen a pure boomer team blow up a project as well.


Surio
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Post by Surio »

@mikeBOS,

With you on this. This Gen X vs boomer thing in his write up is distracting and just takes away a lot of wind from the sails.....
@all,

Going by the cross-section of the comments so far, it appears that we should try and ignore the Gen X/Y/A thing and focus on the:




take this widget, paste it here, you are done



One entrepreneur I knew called that "trigger-happy" coding... Keep clicking "Next" on the Wizard until you reach "Finish" button. Rest of the day is spent in GUI beautification :-(


jacob
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Post by jacob »

@secretwealth - A more appropriate word for GenX would be "pragmatic" or maybe even better "expedient".
@mikeBOS - The idea with generational theory/theorizing is to identify a generation by "yeah, I know those kind of people" not "I'm nothing like that." So it's not saying that everybody born between 1946 and 1964 are hippies, but that e.g. the hippies (and their beliefs) characterized parts of that generation. So it's an attempt to abstract large segments of the population to understand/model the sociological dynamics e.g. why do political correctness come into prominence in the 90s (and not the 50s); not individual dynamics.


mikeBOS
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Post by mikeBOS »

I guess I just "don't know those kinds of people" and don't see any pattern. As far as I can tell their data sets for these types of things is nothing more than an impressive archive of fashion magazines and the old op-ed pages of the NY times.
I mean, this Diane Piktailis is trying to tell me that a 12 year old who was born in 1999 is more likely to be "achievement oriented" than "a good team player"?


Surio
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Post by Surio »

@Jacob,

Perhaps, you may have a point; I was referred to a book called Fourth turning by someone, and that has a similar premise/outlook.
Now, I accept that there are such things as gender gaps (both ways) and generation gaps (both ways).
But as an outsider to the USA, I find models such as these and approaches as very restrictive. They frame World views (large) out of certain geographic pockets and conditions (small, nonetheless) and therefore, they are neither entirely convincing nor successful. (Americans in the audience, please forgive)
But, back to the article, the way you explain it here, is definitely not how that writer frames it in the first place. And perhaps that is why quite a few of us who have responded are unified in being polarised by the article at the same time, but arrived to that conclusion independently. :-)


jacob
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Post by jacob »

It is the 4th turning ... not all nations are in sync. There's an overview on the site. The book itself is pretty heavy going---way beyond the ERE book :P
http://www.generationaldynamics.com/cgi ... 0.i.basics


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Post by Surio »

OK! I missed that one, and now see it (slaps palm on forehead). I ought to pay attention to website URLs more from now on. :-).
Well that settles it for me then. this is a clear case of "Maslow's Hammer".... I have a Hammer (generation theory), and everything looks like a nail (IT dumbing down)... Hee hee... ;-)
Guess I just don't buy into the Fourth turning or the generational dynamics theory around the Gen-X/Boomer/<etc> to explain things the way the article does....



But I will buy into the dumbing down of everything theory. Bring on the philosophers and the soapboxes to re-enlighten the public.


mikeBOS
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Post by mikeBOS »

The generation generalizations remind me a lot of astrology.
Where anyone can look at the generalizations and say, "Oh yeah, I am like that." Or, "Oh yeah, I know lots of old people like that."
If you're vague enough, you'll always be right, much like their 'predictions' page.


jacob
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Post by jacob »

I'd say the more I read about this and combine it with how markets have behaved, the more it makes sense. Economics, finance, and sociology are somewhat disjointed, so each of them either have wrong theories (because e.g. for economics and finance they need to be expressed in whatever mathematics is available --- most of which is inadequate) or they have these long lists of "rules" or "tips". When they're brought together. Light bulb moments!
For example, the defining ranges of the generations [in the US] pretty much coincides with stock market booms and busts.
Coincidence? I think not.
But to clarify, this is simply saying that people are somewhat defined by their environments: how was the world when they were growing up, what were the priorities of their parents, what was the job market. This cause them to act in certain ways which in turn influence their children, etc. That's really all there is to it. For example, GenXers mostly don't have careers in the sense that Boomers have/had careers. GenXers have resumes.
You have the same four generation evolution in Maccoby's Gamesman.
Either it's a conspiracy or this is simply observed independently over and over by many different people in many different fields.


Surio
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Post by Surio »

Jacob said: "this is simply saying that people are somewhat defined by their environments: how was the world when they were growing up, what were the priorities of their parents, what was the job market. "
Now this point that you make, I totally buy into it.... This sentiment is what you express in blog comments in parallel universe post of yours. This is fine by me.
But this is *not* the same as using generational theory the way the authors have been using it — to explain the big picture of everything from "economics" and "prosperity" to "dumbing down".
For example,

Economic booms of the 50s all the way....

Geopolitics explains things better about stock market booms and busts in the last 4 decades or so. My point is: While the World was trying to wake up to post-colonialism and adapt to it... The new (and old) powers simply carved up places for their own resources by propping dictators, invasions, etc... (somewhat // like // this) If you have any more lingering doubts, just look at Africa (and now China and India are also part of the fray) now....
Jacob said: "Either it's a conspiracy or this is simply observed independently"
No, it is not a conspiracy theory, and I think it is an observation as well. For example, there is a generation theory for India from the 1900s till now — based on the environment we have had in India and it explains the actions we took and how we approach life. So, yes generation theory does have some credibility (not because I too have one, but because it does frame certain things in context). So far I am with you.
But that generational theory does not and cannot explain convincingly the new found growth or imperial design of either India's or China's behaviour in Africa. Geopolitics does.
Dumbing down:

And sociological/anthropological pressures explain better about why we are dumbing down. For example your writings (ranting?) on the ills of education system and how people have learnt to game the system since that is so much easier, explains the dumbing down much much better than the Gen-X/Boomer stand-off the way author frames it.
So, I am likely to go with the "Discipled Minds" side of things rather than "Generation theory" side of things.
Just my 0.02p.


GandK
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Post by GandK »

Bah.
I've worked in IT for almost 20 years. There are certainly different attitudes amongst different generations, but the biggest problem I consistently see is not a lack of technical expertise. It's the disconnect between IT and the business units they serve.
When functioning correctly, IT is like a finely crafted tool in the hand of the corporation it supports. It is not a panacea, and neither does it exist for its own sake. In every IT department you have some who are better engineers and some who are better coders, some who are detail-oriented enough to document properly and sometimes even a few who (gasp!) have some people skills and can create that key interface with the business units.
The problem is getting the right people into the right positions. Whom do we generally promote into management? The best engineers and coders. As a business model, that sucks. Engineers should be engineering and coders should be coding. Managing projects and people takes a different set of intellectual muscles altogether. The results are terrible: a set of highly technical individuals placed in a people- and business-oriented position, managing people who are less skilled at engineering than they. Is it any wonder we end up with such rants? When you reward people for outstanding performance by throwing them a few extra grand, taking them out of their realm of excellence and shoving them into a position for which they are NOT prepared, you are absolutely begging for conflict no matter which generation you belong to.
The only real generational difference in this scenario is the fact that 50 years ago, there was a commonly understood and widely adopted standard for dealing with internal conflict and stressful situations called "good manners."


jerry
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Post by jerry »

I worked in many IT related jobs since 1975 until I retired last year at 57. I have taught cs, worked as a systems programmer, worked as DBA, systems and dp manager at various large corporations and government agancies during those 35 years.

One thing that has been remarkably consistent over that entire time span is that 4 out of 5 programmers have not been very good at their job. The most common reason for this was that they only did it for the money. The people that loved programming could usually out perform their peers by a factor of 5 and make it look easy. This is the reason that large corps started to adopt java. It was far easier to get productivity out of mediocre programmers in java than in c++ despite the limitations of java. This has nothing to do with what generation the programmer was born in.


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Post by jennypenny »

I'll agree with the article on points like collusion, which is prevalent in large organizations. And I agree that Comp Sci education has taken a step backwards. I think my husband and I were better off--when we were in college comp sci majors were still part of the math department (sometimes physics). And GandK is right about the career ladder for IT. The best coders get promoted to management to earn more money (even though they can be terrible managers) leaving the average coders behind to accomplish the bulk of the work.
The idea though that this is all because of generational differences doesn't pass the smell test with me. First of all, a third of all programmers on a project are usually foreign-born so wouldn't fall into the stereotypes the author listed. Second, there is so much jumping around from one project/employer to another in IT, the hierarchy of a project doesn't reflect normal corporate structure with boomers on the top and millenials on the bottom.
And third, I'm getting a little annoyed at the current portrayal of GenXers. We have mangaged to hold on to our jobs better than boomers and millenials during this downturn. All while many of us support parents who either didn't prepare well for retirement or had retirement savings too heavily invested in stock. And some of us have helped out younger members of the family (usually millenials) who graduated from college into a mess. I don't think GenXers necessarily value family time more--they've been forced into taking care of two generations at once and *need* the family time off from work. The only trait I see as primarily a GenX problem is overleveraged households.
I think those peaks in the market that correspond to generations just correlate well with peak earnings and peak employment for each generation. Even though there are a lot more boomers, most women weren't working during their peak (or working at very low wages). The GenX peak reflects a workforce that includes a large percentage of women earning much higher wages. And a workforce not only investing more for retirement but also for the college educations of their children.


Dragline
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Post by Dragline »

Yeah, that article is a pretty poor application of generational theory, and does not even describe the generations very accurately.
"Incompetence" is not a trait of any generation, although generations like to accuse each other of it. Nor is is fair to say that the Boomer or X-er generations are "leaderless" as the article implies. The article is also pretty forced -- generational theory cannot explain everything under the sun like the author implies.
Although I find generational theory interesting and useful, I agree with GandK that the struggles with integrating IT departments into an organization have more to with personality and skills disconnects than generational ones. Most IT departments I have worked with suffer from setting goals in a vacuum that may be inconsistent or irrelevant to the functioning of the overall organization. And finding people that are both technically competent and who can work effectively with incompetent and frustrated users is always a challenge.
Meyers-Briggs testing would probably be more revealing than generational theory here.


Chad
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Post by Chad »

I definitely see a difference between generations, so much so that I have toyed with the idea of writing a book like Tom Brokaw's "The Greatest Generation", but calling it "The Worst Generation" (boomers).
Obviously, individual people vary greatly and may even contridict some of the generational theories. However, these theories aren't meant to predict a specific action by a specific person. They are meant to predict the amalgamation of everyones actions. Outliers aren't entirely uncommon.
One good example of differences in generations is happening right now at PriceWaterhouseCoopers. I have friend who is on the partner track there. He noted they are having trouble keeping good young (2-4 years of experience) talent. He said the decision makers keep throwing money at these people and they just keep leaving because it's not what they want. The decision makers (mostly boomers) are dumbfounded because they can't get outside of their own value system.


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Post by CharlieT »

The Fourth Turning for me has done an excellent job of explaining all of American history. Including the decade that followed after it was written. The generational stereotypes aren't true for every individual, but in my experience it works on some level for about 80-90%. Looking at the book's predictions for the near future: The thought of a new social order under the moral leadership of aging hippies, enforced by wannabe Power Rangers, scares the living poop out of me. But that's what seems to be coming.
With other countries, if they do something dramatic that catches the rest of us by surprise, I just stop and ask: What has their history looked like for the past century? And then it turns out they're simply a season or two out of phase. (I'm almost certain that China and Russia are one season ahead of us. Look it up and judge for yourself.)
As for the article Jacob referred us to originally: I don't like how unfairly negative the writer is. Boomers are mostly narcissistic Prophets, yes, but not stupid and leaderless. My own generation is full of cynical pragmatic Nomads, true, but not destructive nihilists.
I bet there's a good reason he got fired from the drivers license company. We just don't know what it really was.
Thanks for posting the article link, Jacob! It really made me think.


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