Dear Boomers and Gen X’ers:
Are you as amazed, astonished and appalled as me at the sheer lack of knowledge on the part of our sons and daughters of virtually anything that transpired before the year 2005?
I know Millennials and their successors, the Gen Z’ers, have taken more punches than poor Muhammad Ali at the end of his career but, folks, the knowledge gap is widening to seismic proportions.
But, fear not, I have a solution.
Before sharing said remedy, though, I would like to submit three recent examples from my personal and professional lives that bear witness to my fear for our country’s future (i.e. “Those who have no knowledge of the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them”).
1.) Scene: family picnic. Players: a 20-something niece and this reporter. Conversation:
Niece: “Hey Uncle Steve. We’re both left handed!”
Me: “I always knew we were both sinister.”
Blank expression. I had to explain the word sinister originated in the Middle Ages and was used to describe anyone born left-handed. Southpaws were considered unlucky and in league with the devil (both true in my case).
The newly-educated Millennial shrugged her shoulders and left to replenish her glass of pinot grigio.
2.) One of my daughter’s 20-something friends spied my heavily bandaged and badly ruptured quadriceps tendon, and asked what had happened.
I told her my ever-jealous business partner had pulled a ‘Tonya Harding’ on me.
Blank expression. I told her to Google Tanya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan and Olympics, and report back to me. Minutes later, she ran up to me and said, “OMG, Wikipedia says that, next to the OJ Simpson thing, Tanya Harding was the biggest news story of 1994!”
3.) We were brainstorming for a new business pitch when the subject of famous husband-and-wife teams came up. A Millennial participant said, “What about that GE guy and his wife who are always on cable TV fighting about politics?”
I told him he’d confused Jack and Suzy Welch with James Carville and Mary Matalin. To which the Millennial nodded and said, “Oh, right, Carville and Matalin are executives working for the prospect, correct?”
While I’ve changed the names and slightly altered the scenarios to protect the innocent, the stories are true.
We have an entire generation of lost souls about to take the helm of business and industry who have virtually no idea about the who, what, when, where, why or how of the world that existed before they extricated themselves from their video games and began non-stop texting.
There are obviously exceptions to the rule but, in my opinion, this is a generational pandemic.
But, as noted, I have a solution I’m about to implement at my firm: Business Jeopardy. That’s right, I’m ripping off the show’s creators in a desperate attempt to educate the troops.
I’m planning five, one-hour workshops. Each will focus on a particular decade (a la the outstanding CNN series) and each will feature categories relevant to my firm: business-to-business, industrial, consumer and marketing communications in general.
We’ll create a Jeopardy-like board and ask that all answers be in the form of a question.
So, for example, in the 1980’s Business Jeopardy workshop, one answer in the business category might be Ivan Boesky.
In the 1970’s workshop, an answer in the consumer category might be Gerald R. Ford (that one’s for you, Grand Rapids). Another answer in the 1970s business category might be Bhopal, India.
We plan on maximizing attendance by handing out Amex gift certificates to the winners of each decade, and then host a tournament of champions whose winner might receive, dare I suggest it, a DVD of the complete CNN series about the various decades.
Regardless of who wins what, it’s my belief the entire firm will benefit (as will each and every participant).
In the meantime, I must close by providing you with the answer to the contestant request in the headline. The answer is: Steve Cody. The correct question? “What was the single biggest hiring mistake made by H&K in the 1980s?”
“You control the board.”