Thursday, May 26, 2011

Generation Gap - A welcome challenge

At times, people appear to be saying things very casually, or shall we say impulsively—without necessarily applying conscious thinking before saying things. However, invariably, such remarks arise from their own experiences/observations-based opinions, that are crystallized over a period of time.

Think about this situation: You are chatting with a child of (say) four years. You are generally enjoying the experience of trying to answer a flurry of questions that the child keeps firing at you. At some stage during this whole delightful experience, the child’s mother/father appears on the scene and gently asks the child to keep quiet and not to continue bombarding you with endless questions. It is at that stage, you say, “Oh, don’t worry. I’m thoroughly enjoying this experience. I tell you, these children are way smarter than the earlier generations!

Or think about this one: You just bought a new electronic device, say a Kindle. And you got it as a surprise gift for your school-going daughter. Obviously, you like the whole idea behind this gadget i.e. a ‘knowledge-enhancing’ machine, and that’s why you have invested in it. You reach home, handover the gift to your child and expect that she will thank you and then hand back the machine to you to quickly train her into using it. Instead, she thanks you for sure, hugs you and then tears open the pack in a jiffy. Next, at a lightning speed, she takes all the logical steps that lead to a very successful installation of her ‘new toy’! You are amazed—to say the least! This job would have taken you not less than an hour to complete. It would have taken no less than 10 irritating moments for you, while you would try to understand installation instructions from the User Manual and simultaneously attempt to satisfy your daughter’s interfering enthusiasm! Not to mention your inability to manage ignoring your wife’s ‘loaded’ stares in the process! But, saving you of all such embarrassment, your daughter simply puts the new machine to work and that too in minutes. And then you say to your wife with mixed feelings of pride and resignation—“these children are a whole lot smarter than us, aren’t they!

Don’t we keep coming across such situations? As a result, quite involuntarily, we develop belief that new generations are smarter/more intelligent than the previous ones.

Being patently aware that my readers are generally well ‘initiated’ in a large array of subjects, many of them may have surely heard/read about Flynn Effect--that offers a substantial theoretical backing/explanation to our abovementioned commonly held experiences. Yet, this may not be a bad place to quickly touch upon the concept—especially given its direct relevance to our lives.

What is Flynn Effect?

In most laymanish terms, it can be explained as a theory that brings out a fact that average intelligence quotient (IQ) scores have risen/and rising over generations. And as the name suggests, the author of this theory was Flynn (James Flynn).

Experts have offered several explanations to such rising IQ levels in newer generations. Mainly, they include improved nutrition, nuclear/smaller families, access to a higher quality of education, exposure to greater environmental complexities and also some positive genetic changes etc… And I am aware that these are still only parts of many more possible explanations. Overall, the process of modernization has made the environments around us more complex, which seems to have led to requirements for higher intelligence--basically to manage life effectively.

Very interestingly, the research tells us that the Flynn effect has ended in most of the developed nations and is more of a common phenomenon in the developing world. In fact, Flynn himself, after observing the phenomenon, questioned whether the intelligence itself was rising or whether there was just a continuous improvement in abilities of newer generations to solve abstract problems! Be that as it may, in my observation (and I am sure this is no different for my readers), the overall intellectual ability seems to be increasing with generations.

It is important here to note that--considering above postulate to be true, we need to understand what it means to us in practical life. Hence, this effort to highlight some imperatives of Flynn Effect for us:

• We must acknowledge next generations’ higher abilities to solve more complex problems and accordingly provide them opportunities to face situations where they can apply their capabilities effectively. In short, do not protect them from real world complexities – as it will amount to clipping their wings.
• We should expect higher standards of results from them than what their earlier generations accomplished. They will find the environment of ‘modest goals’ boring and non-stimulating, which will adversely affect their potential ‘achievement motivation.’ In short, continue to raise the performance bar for them.
• Every next generation is likely to take up the same/similar responsibilities (or more) that the earlier generation executed but at relatively younger age. Corporate honchos-- please take a note of this, because you will have real situations to deal with, where employees with the same job descriptions will be at different age brackets, challenging you to manage them uniquely as per their age groups and years of experience.
• Educational curriculum should not remain static, because new generations will anyway figure out ways of quenching their intellectual thirst, whether within or outside the academic syllabi.

As can be easily made out, the list can really go long. But the point that should be borne in mind is that we should apply newer yardsticks to newer generations—else, we will cause stagnation to the process of overall societal development.

All in all, interesting days ahead for all of us--at least till India consolidates its position as a developed nation!


Abolee Valsangkar said...

Very true... Never knew there was such a studied explanation for the change! Thank You for introducing me to the Flynn Effect... Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Abhay. Very interesting. But don't lose heart. We all have been one up on the earlier generations. Come to think of it, each generation grows to solve the problems of their times. So, if it was the labor problems of our father's times, there was a mellowed down version of the same during ours. Now the productivity equations are different and so HR challenges are so much different. And may I add, we all grew up to attending to our cars maintenance- topping water/ oil DAILY!! Could even REPAIR a carburettor !! Now, most of us dare not try that. The complexity of challenges is different.
Lastly, gadgetry would invariably surprise the oldies. Even the most savvy ones.. Oldies? Am talking about myself.
A really good and thought provoking article. Thanks again.

Abhay Valsangkar said...

Dear Appamama,

Thanks for your encouraging and prompt(as always!) feed-back.

You make an interesting point about the ‘seriousness’ of the theory, more as an immediate response after the first reading. Anju also came to almost a similar conclusion after her first reading—and then we talked about the solid empirical foundation on which these formulations are made.

I must say, I admire your willingness(at your age) to continue to remain engaged with the dynamics around you is laudable.



From: Waman Ainapure []
Sent: Thursday, May 26, 2011 8:22 PM
To: Valsangkar, Abhay (Abhay)
Subject: Re: post

Dear Abhay,
Read your latest post.Thanks for informing.When I think of your writing I find the proof and validity of Flyn's theory.You belong to a generation next to ours. The clarity of thinking and translating that thought into very lucid ,simple and uncomplicated language is a step further to the writing of our generation, which generally is verbose, having lot of frills and decorative element,within which the thought often is choked!
My first reaction to this theory was to think of it as,'Commonsense, neatly put as to appear as a serious theory'.Some pondering led me to understand the crux of it.I can say,with some diffidence though,that I learnt something new.---Appamama

Abhay Valsangkar said...

Hi Buck,

Thanks for your response on my post. I can’t agree more, when you observe that the ‘parents’ in our corporate world ignore ‘uncles’ by snubbing ‘inquisitive children!’ Very well captured, indeed!


From: B Kul []
Sent: Thursday, May 26, 2011 7:35 PM
To: Valsangkar, Abhay (Abhay)
Subject: RE: post


Insightful as usual and strikes a deep chord in every para. I am currently working with a husband-wife team in Pune who are in their late 20s and it is just so amazing how quickly they grasp things and digest new subjects / areas. If we have done anything worthwhile in our 30 years of work, we should have the ability to define the problem for them precisely and give them the larger context. They are capable of finding the answers. And just like the 4-year old in your blog, they just go on asking questions (that get you thinking too) and this leads me to another realization. Why larger companies often fail to deliver what the client wants. When their '4-year olds' are asking intersting questions, the 'parents' (PMs, Relationship Managers, Executives) intervene to say 'don't ask so many questions to uncle (client)' and the meaningful conversation breaks down.

Wow, I have got my adrenaline rushing with this new insight, thanks!!!


Abhay Valsangkar said...

Dear Colonel,

Thanks for your response.

More than the gadgetary, the new generation never fails to suprise me about what they can accomplish--and that too with such an ease and simplicity! We surely can look forward to a brighter tomorrow, with such futurecreaters!


Sanjay said...

dear abhay,
very thought provoking article.
Just one thought worth writing here.
IS it the intelligence or is it Em-telligence (emotional-telligence) which is improving?
We were not allowed to operate the four button radio in our childhood, because we may damage it.And here you are handing over the kindle,
which has thousands of buttons(functions), to your daughter , already accepting that she is superior to you in installing it.
We have reached a point( intellectual and affluent) in our life where we can afford to allow the children to experiment and become bolder.

Abhay Valsangkar said...

Hi Sanjay...Thanks for your comments. To your point about emotional intelligence: I've not come across any specific research that says its generation-wise increase, the way it is seen in IQ with respect to Flynn Effect.Your point about affluence is valid, and in a way, one of the explanations given(by the experts) for rising IQ is emergence and establishment of Nuclear family structures, which offer better economic opportunities to the new generations.Cheers..Abhay

Abhay Valsangkar said...

Thanks, Madhavrao. I am glad you found it interesting reading. Cheers...Abhay

Madhav Jog: "Good thinking indeed!"

Abhay Valsangkar said...

I'm glad you found it relevant in real life...cheers

Saylee: I found it relevant to my job albeit on much smaller scale.

Abhay Valsangkar said...

Thanks a lot Surendra.

I value your appreciation.


From: Surendra Saxena
Sent: Saturday, May 28, 2011 11:10 AM
To: Valsangkar, Abhay (Abhay)
Subject: RE: post

Hi Abhay,

Thanks for putting such awesome blogs! All of them are so thought provoking, so easy to follow and they so easily break the most common "belief". I personally enjoyed all of them, be it the time management, relationship of the latest one on generation gap. They kept me thinking for a long time after reading. Congratulations! This demonstrates how deeply you understand the issues. I called you the other day for the same appreciation.

With Warm Regards,

- Surendra