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  • John R. Durant

Generation 2.0

Updated: May 19, 2021

Each generation has a lot to share with the previous and the next. Take a step away from tasks, ask the more valuable questions and be open-minded about what you hear.


If you are the NEW generation (hint: that’s not just Gen Z, peeps; it’s every generation currently alive), this post is for you.

This post is not a Boomers vs Gen X vs Millennials debate. It is a discussion about what we can all learn from the others before and after us, regardless of your field or profession.


For example, I could have learned more from some COBOL programmers. To explain the missed opportunity, I need to take you back to 1993 (I’ve got an upcoming journey to 1982 in the works for you, too), the year that my wife asked me out on a date, and we were married five months later. It was also a year of immense change in computing, which is true every year. To help orient you, see the ad below from Compute! Magazine in 1993, a bifold layout extolling the glory of a Tandy computer sold exclusively at Radio Shack. Check out those specs. A 212 MB hard drive!

Chief Mistake Officers rebound from failure stronger than ever
1993 Tandy with 212MB hard disk

In 1993, some of us used Gopher even more than we did the World Wide Web client, at least until NCSA dropped Netscape, and the tide seemed to turn. Within just 24 months, Microsoft would release Windows 95, and companies like eBay, Yahoo, and Audible would be founded. A year later, we saw the launch of Juniper, NetGear, and Flash 1.0. Apple stock was at $18, and Cray merged with SGI. From then on, the subsequent transformation was a blur, and by the time we got to 1999, we were in full dotcom insanity while also dealing with Y2K doomsday scenarios.


Green Screens

During that period, I was working at a boutique firm called Micro Modeling Associates. We re-branded as “Plural”, and our company landed some high-profile Web projects like ShopNBC.com and Polo.com. This made us an attractive service delivery asset to Dell, and they purchased us. All of this helped accelerate my career which eventually led to a fantastic opportunity to work at Microsoft in Redmond.


In the 1990’s, the Internet and all of the innovation extending from it felt completely inevitable to the late Boomers or early Gen X’ers that were propelling it forward. There was no doubt a new generation was taking over, a generation that didn’t wait for the torch to be passed. Instead, it effectively declared that torches were sooooo 20th century, and boom—the change seemed complete.


Around 2000, we were building an internal web-based information sharing system for a customer, and it required converting a lot of mainframe COBOL code to the new paradigm of Active Server Pages (ASP) and components that we wrote in Visual Basic 6. On the project, I met a guy in his 50’s who had risen up the ranks as an in-house developer with the customer. While the man never said so, I could tell he was anxious about our arrival and what migration away from the mainframe system would mean for his livelihood. For my part, I was under a ton of pressure to stand up the new system, and I learned enough COBOL to migrate logic of the applications. While I asked those "legacy" developers for information related to the migration, I did not solicit the more valuable things they could have taught me. I missed the chance to ask them what they had learned about balancing the need to address “tech debt” while also delivering new features. I had failed to ask them how they managed unrealistic product expectations from those who didn’t understand the tech. I didn’t ask how they managed latency in request queues, nor did I tap into any of the other considerable wisdom they had no doubt gained over the previous quarter century. My attention was consumed by the tasks at hand.


The way forward

Each generation has a lot to share with the previous and the next. Take a step away from tasks, ask the more valuable questions, and be open-minded about what you hear. Ask open-ended questions and give both the older and younger generations a chance to share what they know. Just as important, be bold and share what you have learned. One of the CEO’s I worked for, Joe Payne, often quoted the famous statement from Michael Jordan that he had missed more shots than he had made. Even though it risks being a cliché, it's still an important principle. Each individual in each generation learns primarily from setbacks and failures. Sharing the lessons learned while listening with an open mind is essential.


© Growthsight, LLC 2021


2 comments

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2 comentarios


kingpaul113
04 mar 2021

John, the battle is there. I'll show you why. Replace your generation names with their definitions. A fun sample from your writing related to the 1990's, "the Internet and all of the innovation extending from it felt completely inevitable to people of the age 45 to 54 or people of the age 24 to 39 were propelling it forward." Sounds bad, doesn't it.

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kingpaul113
04 mar 2021

I think asking open-ended questions over & over becomes annoying to be on the receiving end of those. you're delegating conversation. when i realize someone is doing that to me, I stop talking and turn the tables.

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