Two Sensemaker® projects to understand opposites on the generational spectrum

More Beyond is partnering with KLA on two open Sensemaker® based research projects to understand how South Africans on opposite ends of the generational spectrum view the future.

The first project was done in partnership with The Refirement Network and seeks to understand how South Africans over 45 think about their next season.  We are avoiding the word “retirement” on purpose as that has become an outdated construct in a world where people are living longer and often need to keep earning an income to support themselves. This project is still open and we have not started with analysis yet.  If you are South African and over the age of 45, feel free to contribute your own story here.

The second project focuses on how South African youth (between 18 and 30) view leadership and the future.  Preliminary results were presented at the International Leadership Association Next generation leadership conference that was held in Pretoria last week.  We are still making sense of some surprising patterns, and we hope to involve a sample of young people in our sense-making efforts.

In the context of a societal narrative calling for change, we were surprised by this pattern across one of our triads.

Our sample is slightly skewed towards working young people and/or students though, so this pattern may be very different among unemployed and/or less educated young people.  We hope to gain funding for a broader study to get richer insight and a more diverse perspective.

Some of the initial insights include:

Leadership as it is currently defined appears to have little relevance and impact on the Youth’s perspective of the future

  • While young people have a very optimistic view of the future, their perspective of leadership both now and in the future is skeptical and skewed towards the negative
  • This suggests that they are not relying on leaders to define their future context for them

In addition, current leaders are not the people that they look up to suggesting that leaders will need a new model of leadership in order to generate involved followership from this group.

  • Their role models are more likely to be their family members or themselves than people in more traditional leadership roles
  • In addition almost two thirds claim that there is a critical shortage of good leaders around
  • And their perception is that leadership is achieved through personal characteristics (i.e. character) as opposed to popularity or position

What is encouraging is their innate sense of agency and optimism, however their skepticism of leadership can be problematic, especially in work environments.

  • Current and future leaders will have to lead by example in order to get earn their trust and overcome skepticism.
  • They are optimistic, engaged, and ready to take accountability: how best can current leaders tap into this energy and harness it for good?
  • Most of them (almost 80%) already see themselves as leaders or as having the potential to be leaders should they choose to, this suggests that they are looking for their voice to be heard and taken seriously.  A comment from a young leader on an ILA Conference Panel captures the lived reality of these young people:  organisations who feel a need to innovate often hire young leaders, but once they are there, they prefer for them to be seen but not heard.  Our research suggests that this may be one of the primary reasons why organisations (and tertiary institutions) struggle to engage with the youth.

If you are interested in knowing more about the methodology or in obtaining the formal reports once they are complete, please contact:

sonja[@]morebeyond.co.za or jennip[@]kla.co.za

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