Feb 26, 2009

What Dreams May Come

Young people born after 1982 are the most narcissistic generation in recent history”.

Dr Jean Twenge’s Generation Me (2006) marks her research into narcissism in Generation Y. As a result of over-indulgent and undeserved praise lavished on them by Boomer parents, Generation Y is apparently self-absorbed, lazy and entitled.

According to Dr Twenge, a key manifestation of this narcissism – and ironically the cause of pain and misery to Generation Y – is the pursuit of one’s dreams encouraged by parents and teachers. She argues that a lifetime of pampering has created a generation deluded in the belief that it can achieve anything without making the effort. This ‘delusion’ is revealed for what it is in business, when Generation Ys do not receive the quick promotions and recognition they expect for just turning up, causing them anxiety and stress. Life in business requires effort and dreams can fall quickly to ruin.

While controversial, Dr Twenge’s observations of Generation Y behaviour aren’t narcissism, but signs of naivety.  Indeed Generation Y was brought up believing it could achieve anything, but as discussed in our last blog, educational institutions do not sufficiently prepare students for life on the outside; they don’t equip them with the business tools required to succeed.

3M empowered its employees with such tools with its “Permitted Bootlegging” policy, which enabled scientist Art Fry in 1974 to spend a portion of his working day to put colleague, Spencer Silver’s adhesive to practical use; thus inventing the Post-it Note.

Employers who recognise the pursuit of dreams as the desire to achieve can help Generation Y develop a personal vision or dream, which aligns with that of the company, and provide the tools to empower Generation Y (and so the business) to thrive.

To finish off, President Obama, arguably the mascot for achieving one’s dreams, had this to say at his address on Tuesday:

...In my life, I have also learned that hope is found in unlikely places; that inspiration often comes not from those with the most power or celebrity, but from the dreams and aspirations of Americans who are anything but ordinary.” 

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