SYNAPSE-FIRING ALERT!!! -- " . . .Cognitive structures—mental maps—to help make sense of their experiences between the ages of 11 to 13"

In coming across a very interesting HBR Article from Tamara J. Erickson today ("Are Th..., I thought to immediately pass this on.

Before posting it here, let me briefly preface: Albeit with my very limited voice as a result of only being in Talent Acquisition for 5 years, and also not personally knowing all the sneezers that most efficiently catalyze thought and discussion, I have been trying to get Recruiters thinking about psychology and psychographics . . . not just Source of Hire. You see, the ultimate panacea of any great marketer or salesperson is uncovering the "Why we buy" . . . not just the "Where we buy". In the simplest of terms, Where is great . . . but Why is greater.

At the Kennedy Show in Vegas, John Sumser mentioned that "Demographics are Psychographics" . . . and he brings up a very, very interesting observation. However, I would like to further develop this notion . . . because as any of us know, recruiting isn't just localized nowadays, it's community-ized!

So this is the deal about the article - the title doesn't do it justice. However, the potential psychological application in our space is tremendous.

Here are some highlights that I truly believe we can leverage to stimulate amazing discussion, but also break through our current mental constraint of relying purely on Where . . . we need to start focusing on Why!


"Do you think men and women Gen X’ers have different outlooks and views on how the world works, based on different reactions to the events of their teen years?

As those of you who’ve read earlier posts know, one of the things that makes a group of people a generation is that they share a common location in history and the experiences and mindset that accompany it. These shared experiences tend to shape a similar set of beliefs and behaviors.

The common experiences of our teen years tend to have the most powerful influence on its members’ shared beliefs and behaviors. Research conducted by Swiss biologist and psychologist Jean Piaget concluded that children deal with abstract concepts and build cognitive structures—mental maps—to help make sense of their experiences between the ages of 11 to 13.

Another interesting wrinkle: teen boys and girls may focus on different events and reach different conclusions. For example, when challenged to identify the most important news of the 20th century in a survey conducted by USA Today in 1999, men and women pointed to dramatically different events. Men chose the dropping of the atomic bomb in 1945 as No. 1 and Japan bombing Pear Harbor in 1941; women named the 1928 discovery of penicillin and the Wright brothers’ first flight in 1903.

Commenting on these survey results, Deborah Tannen, author of You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, said that the varying responses reflect her view that men "approach everything through the war template" while women "focus on people and what's happening in their lives." John Gray, author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, attributed the differing results to biology and hormones. "The male is the protector," Gray said. "The female is the nurturer, taking care of the family, interested in health and social issues." Hmmm . . .

Well, regardless of the explanation, I’d love to know what you remember and how you think it influenced your view of the how things work. Which events had the biggest impact on you? How did they cause you to assume the world worked? What priorities did you set for your life, as a response? Do you think Gen X men and women formed different impressions?

Gen X’ers were teens in the 1980s and ’90s. Some of the key events of this period in history are described below.

The conflict in Vietnam ended when Gen X’ers were children: North Vietnam took Saigon in 1975. As teenagers, X’ers saw:
• Gorbachev begin “glasnost” in 1985
• Berlin Wall fall in 1989
• Soviet Union dissolve in 1991
• Apartheid end in South Africa in 1993

This was a time of rapid progress in science and technology. Some of the events had a bit of a “brave new world” feel. The first “test tube” baby was born when X’ers were children and pre-teens in 1978. As teens, Gen X saw:
• The deadly AIDS disease identified in 1981
• Chernobyl nuke plant explode in 1986
• Scientists clone sheep in 1997
• Pathfinder send Mars photos in 1997

Information technology was particularly at the fore. By the time X’ers became teens, Gates and Allen had started Microsoft (1975) and the Apple II had become the first mass-marketed PC (1977). As teens and young adults, X’ers saw the rapid development of the World Wide Web, beginning in1989.

The social fabric was changing significantly during this time, as well. For the first time, women were entering the workforce in significant numbers. The percentage of women in the workforce during the time Gen X’ers were teens rose from the mid-30 percent range to nearly 60 percent in the United States. For the kids, there was virtually no infrastructure in place to support this move—few day care centers, no nanny networks or company-sponsored child care. As a result, the Gen X children became the first generation of “latchkey kids”—home alone many afternoons, often depending on friends for both companionship and support.

The entry of women into the workforce was hastened by the significant increase in divorce rates. X’ers living in the United States saw divorce rates among their parents skyrocket from the low 20 percent level when they were young to over 50 percent by the time they were teens.

Teenage X’ers also witnessed a significant increase in adult unemployment, as corporate restructuring dramatically revamped any concept of lifetime employment. Most teen X’ers knew some adult who was laid off from a job that he or she had planned hold until retirement.

And, finally, there was the Monica Lewinsky scandal, culminating in President Clinton impeachment hearings in 1998."

Joshua Letourneau
Mg Director, SSF (Strategic Sourcing Framework) Implementation
LG & Assoc Search / Talent Strategy

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