Sunday, 25 September 2016

In a very enjoyable weekend I wonder if it’s possible to get any satisfaction

I am so enjoying this weekend. Not only did some of my grandchildren have a sleep over, help build a wooden gate, and get the garden ready for autumn, but BBC 4 allowed 72 year old Keith Richard to curate their entire weekend programmes – something that’s been called, Keith Richards Lost Weekend. Now for all you younger readers of this blog, Keith Richards is a founding member of the internationally renowned rock group the Rolling Stones. Along with Mick Jagger he wrote some of the best known rock songs of all time. The band still play.

He is a former heroin addict and still chain smokes to this day. But he has an irascible sense of humour, is extremely well-read and erudite. His style of presentation was beautifully captured by Chrissie H on Twitter who pondered; 'you know that caterpillar smoking on the mushroom in Alice in Wonderland…' And it's has been a wonderful experience to sit and listen to his memories, and views on the world. These are often straightforward and yet simultaneously complex. Only Keith Richards could want to be famously anonymous. He doesn't own a computer or phone (but did admit to employing others who do), although he does own over 3000 guitars.

For someone of my age the sound track for both nights has been amazing. It has been a fascinating reminder of the challenging social history that has evolved during my life time. Listening to this and his life story brought back so many personal memories. Keith Richards was born just over 10 years before I was and although a great deal can happen in 10 years his account of his early life experiences very much reflected mine, with everything from Saturday morning pictures (cinema), the Readers Digest, to Sunday School, and then later, the discovery of guitars, rock music, smoking, drinking and of course, girls. Hedonism was all.

Keith Richards was born in 1943 so technically he was a Pre-Baby Boomer. Baby Boomers like myself, were those born between 1946 and 1964. Of course the 1960s were said to be a period of great cultural change, which in some ways they were. Whilst generational culture shifts do occur, every generation has basically the same set of aims; living a fulfilling life, earning a living, pursuing a vocation, living in relationships with family, friends and the communities where these relationships are to be found. Arguably these basics of life don’t change much from generation to generation.

However, whilst these ambitions might be the same, the way different generations strive to achieve these goals can shift radically and rapidly. Technology is now all. The different generations (the boundaries of which are rather arbitrary) are usually understood as being the Baby Boomers -those born between 1946 and 1964; Generation X – those born 1965 and 1980; Generation Y (or the so called millennials) who were born between 1981 and 1997; and the latest kids on the block, Generation Z (or the so called iGen or centennials), all of whom were born between 1998 and today. Of note for baby boomers like me is that by 2020, Generation Y and Generation Z will make up nearly 60% of the global workforce.

This fact featured twice for me last week. Monday I was at an annual strategic planning day with colleagues from the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust. Tuesday was the regular VC Executive Team meeting at which our Campus Framework was presented, which included discussions around our plans for a digitally enabled University. In both these meetings the possible expectations of Generation Z (the first true digital natives) formed a central plank of our discussions.

Why, you might ask… Well the majority of the Generation Z would rather lose their sense of smell than their connected devices. They would rather do without good plumbing than good Wi-Fi, over 40% of them spend more time interacting with their smart phone than anything else (which includes their family) and if you think that currently children and young people get their first smartphones at age 10 and the smartphone population usage in developed economies is now above 90%, it's clear we need to find a different way of connecting.  They care less about the getting their hands on the latest fashion than getting a good deal. Experiences rather than accumulating more stuff is what turns them on. Critically, for us baby boomers and the generations yet to come, is that connectivity and social integration is all.

As educationalists and service providers we need to carefully consider what Keith Richard once said so well when we think about our students and colleagues:

'When I’m driving in my car
And a man comes on the radio
He’s telling me more and more
About some useless information
Supposed to fire my imagination
I can’t get no satisfaction
Hey, hey that what I say,
I can’t get no satisfaction'