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Generation why: From an experience economy towards an economy of meaning

Last week I published a new book (Dutch), that I wrote together with Bert Smits, ‘De Jeugd Is Tegenwoordig‘. The title could be translated as: Youth Is Now. In this book we tackle many popular myths that go round about GenY and Millennials. In this blogpost, I’d like to share a main insight based on our book. Although we didn’t want to add a new name for the present youth generation, we do mention a couple of times ‘Generation Why’. Youngsters ask their parents, their teachers and their bosses constantly: Why. Why do I need to do this? Why do I need to know this? This question sometimes is felt as a sign of mistrust, but it isn’t. It’s rather a cry for help, it is young people asking to help them make the right choices. There are so many options in this life, so many streams of information…

The experience economy

Gilmore and Pine coined the concept of the “experience economy”. As everything has become a commodity from a certain quality and even personalized, we want to buy an experience. Authenticitiy, being real, is here the main selection tool. Is the brand or product or service perceived as real. But what’s next? After the experience comes the meaning. When asking why, young people want to know the meaning behind the options. What will make me happy? What will make other people happy? How can I make a meaningful contribution? How can I make the others happy? How does this brand make a meaningful difference? How can this brand help me to make others happy?

The new black

The happiness of others is important to Generation Why. Being together is the new black. If they use social media, the main reason is to share, to let other people know what they know, to share the experience. But the second reason is to meet up in real life. Last week students in Leuven protested because the university wanted to enforce web classes. The reason why the students were against this ‘new development’, was not because they thougt they would learn less, but rather that they wouldn’t see each other anymore. In an economy of meaning a brand, a teacher, a boss needs to answer the why questions young people ask. They need to make clear how they can make the individual happy, but also how they can help to make the group happy. It’s not about a hedonistic happiness, it’s rather about helping to achieve a stable, sustainable happiness.

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2 Responses to “Generation why: From an experience economy towards an economy of meaning”

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