There is a mysterious cycle in human events.
To some generations, much is given.
Of other generations, much is expected.
This Generation has a rendezvous with destiny

President Franklin D. Roosevelt


In 2009/10 I developed an idea called Project Global Generation which was an online education initiative for 4-8ish year olds. The idea was grounded in some behavioral trends I believed would guide this cohort of young people:

  • Global generation: as a group inextricably linked to smart technology and the web they would tend to incorporate a more global view on issues (understanding, awareness, etc); I named them the Global generation
  • Community individualism: as a group more aware of the entire world they would learn to optimize the importance of self and the importance of community (or being part of a collective, which impedes or inspires progress); I named this mindset Community Individualism

I am revisiting what I wrote in 2010 in this piece <the bulk of this is exactly as I wrote it in 2010> because I have become increasingly confident that ‘community individualism’ is at the core of many discussions taking place with regard to the future (of business, of society, of humans).

Which leads to me to where both of those above ideas began.

It actually began with the fact I do believe generations are cyclical (this is the 4th Turning analysis from Strauss & Howe) and a personal analysis of past generations in which I came to my own conclusion of what I believe the next generation will “look like.” To be clear. This is an attitudinal idea and not some marketing mumbo jumbo wherein I suggest targeting some age group with some simplistic platitudes. I do believe in generational cohorts shaped by events and experiences of which constitutes actual events as well as attitudinal aspects of other generations (shaped by what they experienced). Any discussion of generations almost has to incorporate some cyclical aspects from which you can see some similarities in etrms of experienced attitudes and differences based on actual event experiences. Oddly, despite naming the Global Generation before GenZ arrived on the scene I now find myself stuck in odd arguments of what GenZ is and is not. Why call it The Global Generation?  Globally there should be an exponential growth in creativity (toward environment as well as science and thinking) as the “global mind” seamlessly shares ideas and thinking. While I will never suggest this ‘global mind’ won’t have conflict, I do believe there will be unprecedented knowledge sharing (which should lead to some version of Enlightenment).

I call it the Global Generation because while I believe current generations are paving the way for the capability of sharing global innovation & thinking <and at certain times & places it is actually happening quite successfully> it will be the upcoming generation which will benefit – and be global in attitude & behavior.

Which leads me to “The Global Generation and Owning a Contradiction: Community Individualism.”

To make this idea be its most effective, the concept has to embrace the contradiction. Community, a pluralism type idea, and Individuality of choice, a strength in “one” to make a difference type idea. Therefore, this concept needs to enhance the sense of global community and encourage local individual choice to encourage belief that a global community is actually made from the strength of individual choices (and the global community respects local choices as long as it stays within an overall respect for life & environment construct).

The strength of this concept lies within the circular strength of the global/local relationship. The premise behind community individualism resides in one word: Convergence. Convergence of the right generation with the right mindset being in the right place with the right enabler tool.

The Global Generation, and this mindset, will occur as the synthesis of the convergence between an enabler (the web) and an attitude (the right generation). The Global Generation will arise from the momentum of smaller generational variables (the attitudes and beliefs of the boomers, genXers and Millennials) with the added impact of a technological innovation. I believe this generation will be Individual voices raised to a collective “global roar” of not social pluralism, but rather a values/principles based global pluralism.

The current older generations spiraling divisiveness (with its vocal extreme niches) will provide an opportunity for the Global Generation to attain a balanced belief profile (or assessing the truth).

To me, the Global Generation is a fulcrum generation (or call it a transitional one if you prefer) for future generations. In the existing generational environment, there is a growing abdication of individual responsibility as we fall back into a consensus mindset (this is reflected often in a growing concern or interest in community and localness). As events unfurl and the Global Generation has the opportunity to grow up within this environment, we should see a shift into “empowered individual responsibility” (of which we see signs of it creeping into the tail end of the Millennial generation).

Which leads me to say why Millennials are not the ‘global’ generation.

I don’t think Millennials CAN be truly global because of too many existing attitudes as well as technology is still advancing and they are still embracing the innovations. That said, here is why I believe it will be the generation following Millennials.

The Global Generation is the crossover, or transition, generation in the swing between “me-ness” and “we-ness”. I believe this generation will own a contradiction: Community individualism.

And they will bring about a cultural change in the way we perceive and use our natural environments and how we treat each other globally. To give them credit, Millennials and GenXers have set them up to be in this position.

  • Why I believe this: Tapping into the Subcurrent

Just as Strauss and Howe outline generational cycles I believe there are also subcurrent cycles. The one most relevant to the Global Generation theory is that of cycles of community and individualism. And this cycle relationship creates a multi dimensional aspect by existing as a focus within a generation as well as a within a lifetime of a generation. What I mean by this is that on one dimension generations on a whole swing back and forth between a comfort in collective or community culture and individualism (or “me” focused). On another dimension or the dynamics of that same feeling within the life of a generation (meaning maybe it was all about me when I was younger but ‘me’ starts looking at ‘we’s’ and our collective experiences as elders).

Strauss and Howe articulate this concept much more intelligently, but I have dumbed it down for my purposes. Interestingly, as 4th Turning outlines, this individual/community relationship actually converges to create a mindset/attitude within this post-millennial generation and appears to have an opportunity to balance them. This balance, should it be achieved, provides the potential for a global ‘values’ platform (value everyone’s different values) for the generation.

The post millennial generation (The Global Generation) will have been preceded by the two extremes of community and individualism.

  • GenXers are the “me” generation. Focused on maintaining the strength of their individuality (maybe without the rebelliousness as they get older) borne of their youth. As they “grey” they will better understand the importance of community strength in addressing big issues, i.e., “maybe those big issues are better solved by the larger group then by us few extreme voices” but their individuality is at the core of their being.
  • Millennials are the “we” community generation. Consensus and group dynamics and openness are attributes of this generation. Having seen the power of the group/community in their youth they will begin edging into understanding the voice of individuality as they ‘grey’.

Both prior generations will have explored global issues and both will have lived thru ignorant conflict (and felt there had to be something better). In addition, the continuing unrest & seeming imbalance globally <and in some cases regionally> will make the concept of balance a topical issue in Global Generation households (therefore it will be a known concept). The Global Generation will benefit from what the prior generations couldn’t figure out how to do on their own.

  • Why I believe this: The converging aspects: the enabler and the enabled (vocalizing versus learning)

As suggested earlier, I believe the web is the key tool which will enable the Global Generation. Each prior generation has been progressively more understanding of the web as a knowledge platform and progressively better at maximizing the platform (I actually believe Millennials will probably demand some knowledge or accuracy standards as they get older and take on the reins of the web). GenXers will have seen the power of the individual voice or minority voice (both good and bad) and will be receptive to an accurate and accessible knowledge platform.

If you combine the physical asset (or infrastructure to support a global transfer or platform for knowledge and information) with the behavioral aspects of generational tendencies, you see the potential for a convergence where individual/country cycles converge to sync into one time and one place. Similar to a sun being blocked by the moon this may be a once in a long while convergence before spreading out again into individual orbits. It just appears to me that we have an opportunity to influence attitudes before everyone goes back to their “orbits”.

I believe it is clear the advent of the web globally (and by globally I mean access to all or the majority of local populations globally) has created a common platform that has never existed before. Lastly, while the internet will never create a turning <or have the ability to create a revolution> it certainly has the potential to influence/amplify “turnings” and impact ideological desires.

You can see even now how different generations are attempting to use the web to influence how people think and act. For example, the web has given voice to the minority or splinter groups, allowing voices of divisiveness (or maybe better said voices of the extreme positions) to be expressed and heard on a larger podium/stage. But this also presents an opportunity for the future and the Global Generation.

While other generations will use the web to ‘vocalize,’ I believe the evolving generation will use the web (or at least if someone uses it properly) to “learn”. This collaboration of attitudes, beliefs, mindsets & thinking enables a higher level of intimacy/empathy between cultures and globally dispersed local communities (or maybe, more specifically, individuals). We see this emerging even today (it just has not matured). Not surprisingly, new technology has transformed our worlds – empowering people with access to extensive circles of population as well as connecting in surprisingly personal and intimate ways.

Which leads me to say that I may be putting a lot of pressure on the internet as “the convergence factor” (or the enabler) to create this Global Generation.

Generations are typically impacted by innovations <think Electricity, the Engine, the Car, the TV, Dwarf grain and now the Web>. An innovation can exponentially affect an existing attitude. And innovations “lag” (immediate impact on early adopters who provide input to refine and ultimately majority adopts) so the timing works out to Global Generation being the knowledgeable majority.

So. The thought is that each generation has been progressively gaining more understanding of the web as a knowledge platform and progressively better at maximizing the platform.

An important aspect is that I also believe it will be the Millennials who will (eventually) demand some knowledge or accuracy standards as they get older and take on the reins of the current missing web standards. GenXers’ role will be that they have seen the power of the individual voice or minority voice (both good and bad) and will be receptive to an accurate and accessible knowledge platform.

Once again, the Global Generation will be able to take advantage of a prior generation’s preparation.

To be clear, Millennials will be open to a global community (which is the reason why I believe the Global Generation will be successful as they follow in their footsteps), but they will be the cohort that navigates the mosh pit of the cultural transition issues.

Which leads me to speculate on even the next generation, the post-Global Generation, and what I call the Enlightened Individuality Generation.

If I were to guess <sticking with the turnings and archetypes> I would guess the generation after the Global Generation would begin the “separation” aspects seeking clarification of geographical community versus global community. I believe the Aftermath of Convergence, or The Global Generation Legacy, will be how their mindset will affect behavior, i.e., Community Individualism leading to Enlightened Conflict.  This balance of community and individuality will permit this generation to better accept and respect the choices made by individuals globally and yet strengthen local communities (I actually believe that will be represented by strengthened country patriotism). The community aspect will definitely lead to some cultural or geographical driven conflict yet the respect for individual choices elsewhere will balance the conflict within a “values set of rules.” I believe all of this is a good healthy thing. Especially if the Global Generation has sought out and wrapped their arms around a common respect and a larger sense of tolerance or common “rules of the road” to conduct interaction – or conflict – as more distinct geographical individualism reemerges.

Which leads me to what does all this mean?

Assuming I am right alignment of all these factors creates a window of opportunity. Generations are not set by birth, but by accumulated experience over a lifetime. As Millennials will deal with all the crises we have and see, the Global Generation will deal with the aftermath. I also believe the uncertainty/angst we are current experiences will clarify some things, in particular the importance between ignorant conflict and enlightened conflict, for the Global Generation. Therefore, I imagine it comes down to what we want to do before the window closes and what we do to enhance “accumulate experience.” In my mind with the promise of this Global Generation we need to foster the intercultural dialogues, lessons, transferal of ideas and beliefs and feed a globalized intellectual curiosity and awareness.

In our thrust to be analytical, impartial and scientifically rigorous we may have lost the values based pluralism aspects for educating future generations to ensure the protection of humanity. The reality is that anyone in almost any country can see or meet through the internet with anyone anywhere and I believe this Global Generation will increasingly recognize the differences between us simply stepping stones in trying to get to the same place with similar dreams. Access to technology will create a situation where children globally will have access to similar information and knowledge (and will be communicating with each other in a fashion where country borders are irrelevant).

We need to ensure that generation in its youth is not overwhelmed by the enormity of the global problems and insure they understand their actions will have an impact.  This “understanding” encompasses environmental responsibility, social resilience, community connection and actionable knowledge towards a sustainable future (environmentally and societally).

In the end.

To be clear. I do not believe I, or anyone, could manage the moment of this scope, but it may be possible to influence the moment. In other words, take advantage of the convergence & confluence of factors and influence future behavior and mindsets before the alignment opportunity is closed and cultures begin vectoring out on their own.

At this convergence point in time this Global Generation will begin to truly understand, as a generation and not an underlying minority, it doesn’t matter who believes what, but that we all believe in the preservation of the Earth and its people so we can all continue live comfortably in the future without having to kill each other or kill our resources and that society is made up of individual choices with collective benefit in mind.

Children comprise approximately twenty per cent of the global population, but represent one hundred percent of our future. We should be seeking to create a Global Generation of resilient children who are motivated, have high self esteem and respect for others, basically, seek to foster an enlightened community individualism mindset. I believe in this time, and this place, this Global Generation has a rendezvous with destiny. Ponder.

Written by Bruce