Unfolding the Future


What Gen Z can teach us

Scottish author Frances Wright said, ‘The knowledge of one generation is the ignorance of the next.’

Baby Boomers – born from 1940 to 1959; part of the baby boom post-World War 2
Gen X – born from 1960 to 1979; also known as the MTV-generation
Millennials – born from 1980 to 1994; known as the Me Generation for their self-obsession
Gen Z – born from 1995 onwards; true digital natives, integrating virtual and offline experiences

If we look at the generations from a consumption point of view, Baby Boomers consumed ideologies like Flower Power. Gen X consumed status and gave rise to terms like Yuppies and DINKs. Millennials consumed FOMO and me-experiences. And Gen Z? Studies suggest that Gen Z’s main spur to consumption is the search for truth. This generation feels comfortable not having only one way to be itself. Its search for authenticity generates greater freedom of expression and greater openness to understanding different kinds of people.

When interviewed, a high net worth individual shares: “I invested in coal companies in the past because I wanted to make money. It was about survival but if you ask my young daughter, she would say ‘No Daddy, you cannot invest in a company that harms the environment and treats people poorly etc’ and after three, four, a hundred of such conversations, you realise it’s not a fad or trend. These Gen Zs…they believe. They truly believe. And I have listened.”
Members of Gen Z have been exposed to the Internet, to social networks, and to mobile systems from birth. In the context of soaring global connectivity, generational shifts could come to play a more important role in setting behaviour than socioeconomic differences do. Young people have become a potent influence on people of all ages and incomes, as well as on the way those people consume and relate to brands.

So what can we learn from the Gen Zs? Maybe understanding them would give us a better clue. According to research firm Box 1824’s report on Youth Mode, Gen Zs:

  • value individual expression; the search for self within the given framework
  • are committed to mobilising themselves for what they believe in
  • believe in dialogue and addressing conflict in order to make the world a better place
  • are highly analytical and pragmatic when they need to be
Gen Zs value individual expression
Gen Zs constantly evaluate unprecedented amounts of information and influences. For them, the self is a place to experiment, test and change. They can be religious but be open to broader life themes and beliefs. They are also more interested in human rights, defending causes related to identity like race, ethnicity, LGBTQ rights, feminism and more.

Gen Zs are committed to mobilising themselves
Gen Zs are more inclusive than other generations because they have grown up in a world where they have formed friendships both online and offline. This allows for high mobilisation at an instant based on causes and interests, regardless of economic or educational background. Think about how K-pop fans blanked Trump’s recent rally by block-reserving seats. Or how they raised millions overnight for the Black Lives Matter movement. If they care, they dare.

Gen Zs believe in dialogue
Unlike Baby Boomers, Gen Xs and Millennials who are more prone to ‘breaking off’ discussions due to ‘toxicity’ (hardly any conversation ends with ‘I see your point’), Gen Zs believe in being participative. They can interact with institutions without abandoning their personal beliefs, are more forgiving of corporations that are sincere when they make a mistake. They would rather engage and extract whatever makes sense for them.

Gen Zs are highly analytical
With vast amounts of information at their disposal and being more comfortable absorbing knowledge online than via traditional institutions and sources. Gen Zs are more pragmatic and analytical than previous generations. Having born in economic downturns and raging environmental issues, they aren’t as idealistic as the preceding millennials who powered the gig-economy. They are more aligned to regular jobs that allow them to contribute and express themselves because they believe work and play and life and living are all converging. They are ready.

The new generation, like Gen Z, often influence trends and affect the behaviour of society. In Gen Z’s case, technology has given them an unprecedented degree of connectivity among themselves and with the rest of the world. As true digital natives, their power is radiating outwards into very noticeable generational shifts. This will present many learnings and more importantly, many opportunities.

The question then would be, are we open-minded?