The Oregon Trail Generation

The Oregon Trail Generation

Obviously, we talk a lot about generational differences here at Abbey Research. We do this because they’re important to how people work together and because we hear consistently from our clients, colleagues, and friends that navigating the differences frequently feels frustrating. We also do this because Dr. Erin and I are in the grey area between generations and we see how that impacts our day-to-day lives.

For all our talk about Boomers, Millennials, Gen X, and The Greatest Generation – we have to acknowledge that folks on the edges of these are often more at home, culturally, in a generation unconnected to their birth year cohort. As folks born in the early 80s, we aren’t technically Gen X, but we understand it, nor are we really at home with many viewpoints held by the majority of Millennials.

A Facebook post I read once called us the Oregon Trial Generation, after the iconic computer game. Basically, that was the criteria – did you play Oregon Trail during computer lab at school? Then you may feel at home in both generations around you and yet completely out of place as well. Personally, I resonate with the acceptance of dissonance that comes with Generation X, the belief that we have little global control over anything, and that there’s no need to police the behaviors or beliefs of other people. I also resonate with the economic realities and attitudes of Millennials – that we’ll never be out of debt, that it’s odd to know people who have mortgages, and other things that Dr. Erin covered last week. I’m comfortable with technology, but I also love a good pencil. I was taught cursive in school, but also some basics of coding. I was in college for Sept 11 – not middle school, like many of my fellow Millennials.

So as we make some of these sweeping generalizations that allow us to have conversations, remember that there are grey areas everywhere. Remember that the person in their 30s in your office may be terrified of social media, the person in their 20s may be really skeptical of climate change, the person in their 60s may not be counting down to retirement. Different people get to be different, no matter when they’re born.

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