Cycles of Behavior

Some books are entertaining and some are profound which cause us to think. A good example of the latter is The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Stowe published in 1997. The authors provide food for thought on how to position or change our business and how to relate to fellow workers.

They predicted in 1997, four years before the 9/11/01 attack, that in about ten years a grave moment of opportunity and danger. Their predictions included:

  • Economic distress, with public debt in default, entitlement trust funds in bankruptcy, mounting poverty and unemployment, trade wars, collapsing financial markets, and hyperinflation (or deflation).
  • Social distress, with violence fueled by class, race, nativism, or religion and abetted by armed gangs, underground militias, and mercenaries hired by walled communities.
  • Cultural distress, with the media plunging into a dizzying decay, and a decency backlash in favor of state censorship.
  • Technological distress, with crypto-anarchy, high-tech oligarchy, and biogenetic chaos.
  • Ecological distress, with atmospheric damage, energy or water shortages, and new diseases.
  • Political distress, with institutional collapse, open tax revolts, one-party hegemony, major constitutional change, secessionism, authoritarianism, and altered national borders.
  • Military distress, with war against terrorists or foreign regimes equipped with weapons of mass destruction.

The authors made these predictions by studying history and determined that history repeats itself every fourth generation. They described these generations as:

  1. High, an upbeat era of strengthening organizations and weakening individualism when old values decay. Current example is the Baby Boomer or Prophet generation, those born between 1946 and 1964.
  2. Awakening, a passionate era when the civic order comes under attack from a new values regime. This is the era of the Gen X or Nomad generation, born between 1965 and 1980.
  3. Unraveling, a downcast era of strengthening individualism and weakening institutions with the decay of civic order and emergence of new values. This would be the era of the Millennial, Generation Next, or Hero generation, born between 1981 and roughly 2000.
  4. Crisis, a decisive of era of upheaval when the new values regime propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one. This is the era of the Artist or Silent generation, born after 2000.

We can relate to earlier cycles of the Hero generation of WWI followed by the High of the early 20s, the Awakening of he depression, the Unraveling of international accord, and the WWII spawning another Hero generation. The Heros of that generation were born somewhere between 1900 and 1928, followed by a Silent generation born between 1929 and 1945.

From these reoccurring cycles, the authors of The Fourth Turning based their predictions detailed earlier. An understanding of these cycles can provide guidance of action on a global, national, and local level.

As stated earlier, armed with this knowledge, we can make better business decisions and learn how to deal with employees of different age groups. I am a member of the Silent generation and was brought up to do as I was told. I did because I had great respect for the Hero generations of WWI and WWII. We cannot expect this of the other generations and need to understand the differences and how to relate with them.

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