The 5-year Generation

Baby boomers, Generation X, Gen Y, Millennials.

These are the labels we know. Generations. They refer collectively to a group of people born in the same 18 year period. Beginning with The baby boomer generation, described as people born between 1946 and 1964. This is the generation of babies born beginning at the end of WWII. Moving forward, Generation Xers were born between 1965 and 1983. Gen Y between 1984 and 2002. And Millennials are those born between 2003 and present day.

The baby boomer generation has been pretty well defined by the years stated, but Generation X, Gen Y and Millennials have all fluctuated in definition by year of birth. For instance, does Gen Y really end at 2000 and Millenials begin at year 2001? For the purposes of this theory, it actually doesn’t matter, so we won’t spend time parsing dates.

The point being that until today, generations have been defined by approximately an 18 year period.

I no longer believe this to be true. Actually, I don’t even think it’s close.

In today’s world, writing this in September 2016, 18 years is far too long a time to consider babies born that far apart to be of the same generation. It’s not practical and it’s not accurate.

“So what?”, you ask.

That’s exactly the point of this article — to get us all to ask the question, if perhaps in different words.

What is the significance of re-defining, or just re-thinking, generations as people born within a 5 year window, rather than an 18 year window?

Think about this: As I write this in 2016, nothing that we talk about with any relevance today was even conceived of in 1999. 
Facebook — 2004
YouTube — 2006
Twitter — 2006
InstaGram — 2010
SnapChat — 2011
And oh, by the way, cell phones were around, but…THIS was a high end cell phone in 1999

To consider people born 18 years distant from each other part of the same generation is almost as ridiculous as referring to that 1999 Nokia cell phone and any cell phone today as basically the same thing.

So, back to the question… What does this mean?

Let’s look at possible answers from different angles:

From a personal perspective, different ages of people are finding it more and more difficult to understand each other.

From 1950s parents not understanding their kids love of rock-n-roll and dancing, right up through the ages, our society is riddled with stories of one age (generation) not understanding the next. Well, this is happening quicker now.

From a business perspective, targeting your products and services to demographics is becoming a more and more important factor in reaching your ‘target audience.’ In fact, these fast changes in the world are re-defining what it means to have a ‘target’ audience or an ‘ideal customer.’
It is more important than ever to understand exactly who wants, needs and uses your product or service if you want to sell enough of it to remain in business.

So if we are now in a world where a new ‘generation’ is born every 5 years — what are you going to do with that information?