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Bridging Generational Divides in Innovation

Innovation Shifting into a Digital Framework

Certainly, much has been covered in the media regarding different generations and their personalities, the primary ones being the Boomers, Gen X, the Millennials and Gen Z. As one generation retires, another rises up to take its place in the workforce and the market. There will always, of course, be overlaps and compromises in multigenerational marketing as companies look to target a specific channel or demographic. Yet just how will generational shifts impact innovation?

In Thinkergy’s blog, “How generational shifts will impact business and innovation,” Dr. Detlef Reis outlined some of what he feels are the implications of that generational shift on innovation, some of which we are experiencing today:

  1. Expect innovation to flourish when the pragmatic, creative and entrepreneurial Gen Xers innovate alongside the collaborative, idealistic Gen Yers supported by the fresh ideas of the flexible, multicultural and balanced Gen Zers.
  2. Innovation focus will shift to meaningful emphasis from “making money first regardless of what it takes” (Boomers) to focus on “making meaning first, then we will make money anyway” (idealistic Millennials coupled with pragmatic Gen Xers).
  3. After the gradual disappearance of the remaining Baby Boomers in the next decade, everyone remaining in the workforce will be digital citizens: either an immigrant (Gen X), native (Gen Y), or digital everything (Gen Z).
  4. Expect almost all innovations to have digital elements by 2030. Powered by the advent of the sixth long wave of technological change, new lead technologies and related industries will emerge that will drive economic growth for the next 2-3 decades.
  5. Looking ahead to the next 25 years, Reis predicts the character of many innovations to be more entrepreneurial, social, qualitative and life-affirming (e.g. clean technologies, energies and food).
  6. Innovation training courses and innovation project workshops will continue to take place in real-life formats for the next ten years, and demand for these formats will increase. This is because of the educational upbringing (Cafe-style, social and collaborative) and preferred training focus (emotional, participative, stories, continuous, expected) of the now largest generation at work (Millennials), coupled with the training preferences of Gen Xers (spontaneous, interactive, round-table style, relaxed with a practical, applications-oriented focus), who will increasingly sign the checks to pay for innovation education. In the long run, however, digital training courses will gradually gain prominence reflecting the more technology-driven training preferences of post-Millennials.
  7. With regards to the process side of innovation in future, we foresee the emergence of virtual reality solutions that allow innovation team members based in various creative cities to collaborate in real-time on an innovation project in a virtual reality space under the guidance of an innovation process expert.
  8. With the gradual departure of the Baby Boomers from the C-suite of big corporations, we forecast the renovation and creative cultural transformation of many established corporations led by the more pragmatic, entrepreneurial and creative Gen X leaders.
  9. Innovation will continue moving from the closed towards a more open paradigm as collaborative Millennials and technology-addicted post-Millennials will gradually gain more influence in the labor market—provided open innovation will be organized in a win-win-win way.

Looking Closer at Generational Realities

In All Things Insights’ “Mastering Multi-Generational Marketing,” we looked closer at the preferences of Boomers through Gen Z. Today’s consumer audiences are diverse and span multiple generations. Each demographic group has unique preferences, concerns, and values. Ultimately, while it’s important to look for common ground for one’s advertising efforts, it’s equally as important to understand the nuances and details of each generation so that one can customize and personalize advertising and marketing to each group. This will aim to effectively engage each group from Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z, and everything in between. Can the insights professional become an expert in all things generational?

Generational Marketing Enhances Innovation Processes

The field of innovation can benefit significantly from generational marketing in several ways. We asked ChatGPT to highlight some of the top advantages:

  1. Tailoring Innovation to Generational Preferences: Generational marketing provides insights into the unique preferences, behaviors, and values of different age cohorts, such as Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z. By understanding these generational differences, innovators can tailor their products, services, and solutions to better meet the needs and preferences of each generation. This targeted approach increases the relevance and appeal of innovations, driving greater adoption and acceptance among different demographic groups.
  2. Identifying Emerging Trends and Opportunities: Generational marketing helps identify emerging trends and opportunities within specific age demographics. By analyzing generational attitudes, lifestyles, and consumption patterns, innovators can uncover unmet needs, emerging preferences, and market gaps that present opportunities for innovation. This insight enables organizations to proactively develop new products, services, and solutions that address evolving consumer demands and capitalize on emerging market trends.
  3. Innovating for Different Life Stages: Generational marketing recognizes that individuals within different age cohorts may be at different life stages, with unique needs, priorities, and challenges. Innovators can leverage this understanding to develop solutions that cater to the specific life stage needs of different generations, such as products for young families, retirees, or empty nesters. By innovating for different life stages, organizations can better serve their target audience and create products and services that resonate with consumers at various points in their lives.
  4. Creating Relevant Marketing and Messaging: Generational marketing informs the development of marketing strategies and messaging that resonate with different age groups. By understanding generational values, communication preferences, and media consumption habits, innovators can create targeted marketing campaigns that effectively engage and connect with their target audience. This personalized approach enhances brand perception, increases brand loyalty, and drives greater adoption of innovative products and services.
  5. Fostering Intergenerational Collaboration: Generational marketing encourages intergenerational collaboration and co-creation, where individuals from different age cohorts work together to develop innovative solutions. By bringing together diverse perspectives, experiences, and insights, organizations can foster creativity, innovation, and knowledge sharing across generations. This collaborative approach leads to more holistic and inclusive innovation processes that result in products and services that better meet the needs of a diverse customer base.

Staying in Front of Generational Changes

Overall, generational marketing provides valuable insights and perspectives that can inform and enrich the innovation process. By understanding generational preferences, identifying emerging trends, innovating for different life stages, creating relevant marketing, and fostering intergenerational collaboration, organizations can drive more effective and impactful innovation initiatives that resonate with consumers across generations.

The generational shifts that occur in the marketplace are always evolving. Many ways that we conduct business, the evolution of the workplace, and the messages we craft to consumers will change. Getting to know the generational shifts, and gaining insights into each consumer group, can help realign your business and innovation initiatives as the changes unfold.

Video courtesy of Dr. Michelle Rozen

Contributor

  • Matt Kramer

    Matthew Kramer is the Digital Editor for All Things Insights & All Things Innovation. He has over 20 years of experience working in publishing and media companies, on a variety of business-to-business publications, websites and trade shows.

    View all posts
 
 

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