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The Age of Outliers (Part 1): Generational Differences

The impact of generational behavioural trends in the post-COVID era

Experts say the last two years have completely transformed the way people think. This was already made clear by respected researchers and analysts within a day or two of the virus’s outbreak, and it was also clear that it was not just a superficial human process similar to previous crises around the world, but was putting things into a whole new dimension. Moreover, different generations have been affected differently, and it cannot even be said that there is too much scope for setting up patterns at a universal level. A generational change has taken place. There is a generation that really came to power in the 2008 crisis and managed to consolidate it considerably, and then there is a generation that is completely disappointed. And, of course, the most interesting trend is that the biggest winners in the pandemic are those who represent the opposite pole in their thinking and decision-making mechanisms compared to their own generation. The “outliers” have set their own careers on a new trajectory, and we look set to see this process continue for a long time to come.

Generational groups

Unfortunately, it is not a recent observation that “otherness” is not something we humans can universally tolerate. This of course takes different forms. Some people are teased from childhood for wearing glasses or braces. Then, of course, there are more deeply rooted reactions against otherness in societies, which, for example, take the form of sexual or religious stereotypes, and then we should of course talk separately about prejudices relating to skin colour. These are constantly being combated in developed societies and it is safe to say that progress is being made at global level. Of course, until we reach a level of human normality, these positive trends are only hopeful, but they do not offer any reassurance to those belonging to the minority in question. In addition, these trends are often used by politics or even religion itself to incite and exclude people, just to win another election or to maintain the church’s power over the common people, which is not necessarily at the right level. These are serious socio-political issues, which could and should be discussed at length, but I would like to draw attention to the fact that, in addition to these issues, which attract a lot of publicity, there are also the simple “excommunications”, which are almost normal in our everyday lives, and the resulting exclusions. When one grows up as a member of a generation, a generation that has the values, the rules, the given and learned personality traits with which it has created the world of its own generation, these influences sooner or later become a trend directly influencing decision-making mechanisms. This is why professionals invest a great deal of energy in classifying different age groups into appropriate groups. After all, once the groups are in place, the members of the group, although not all to the same extent, generally carry the behavioural mechanisms that are specific to the age group. In order to group age groups, of course, it is necessary to identify the events that affect societies globally and locally and which in fact impart life-long patterns of behaviour to people who have grown up in a given period. In our writings, we have repeatedly used one of the most modern generation research theories, which is increasingly being applied by both business and the developed economic world to understand their strategies, their target groups, and their peers.


RISE’s generational split defines 12-year periods as the main generational trend, and then three sub-groups within them depending on the events taking place during that period. The popularity of using this system lies precisely in the fact that it collects the life events that took place during the most formative period of the later adult life of a given age group and then translates them into what is known as personality language. In other words, they determine which personality traits are reinforced by the existence and production of a particular life event in society. In these groups, their study shows that the majority of people born at a given age – 12 years – have commonly recorded personality traits that they bring out in certain decision-making situations. These are called generational personalities. However, they have also shown that within each generation there is a minority that has almost completely opposite personality traits to their peers. This is because all personality types are naturally found in every generation. A group of people with a personality type that is psychologically completely opposite to the generational personality trait assigned by life events will be the minority, the “outliers”. To use a concrete example. One of the most puzzling generations is The Ambitionist Generation, born between 1985-1996. This generation has been fundamentally shaped by the dramatic increase in globalisation of the Internet and later social media, among other events. They have also been influenced by the fact that, thanks to this global presence, becoming a star has never been easier than in this generation. Talent show, social media stars gained local or global fame, influential power in an instant, and it was this generation who also witnessed the startup explosion of the generation before them, and dreamed of a quick, huge exit, of making their fortune. These events gave the whole generation a very dominant “you have to break through ” value, where money and power are paramount and should be obtained as easily as possible with the least amount of work. Of course, this is a generalisation, but this attitude is still a serious problem – and perhaps more of a problem than ever – for HR leaders in business today. Well, if someone in this generation has an empathetic, socially minded, non-image-centric personality, fearful of change, of making a big leap, even the opposite of it, wanting to blend in with the crowd, they had a very difficult childhood. Now, they are the “outliers” among the Ambitionists. However, COVID seems to have reversed the trend and these often-marginalised individuals are becoming the people of the future.