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Decoding the Generation Gap

Mita Dixit

Author: Mita Dixit

Date: Sun, 2016-09-04 18:23

"What is the generation gap?" I asked.

Suddenly, there was an awkward silence. After a few seconds, some whispering started. I was taking a class on ‘Family Issues’ for our FMB students.  The topic of discussion was the challenges of the younger generation, particularly vis-a-vis the family, while getting inducted in the family business.

I asked, “What makes you uncomfortable in interacting with the seniors in the family”?  A few seconds later, one voice from behind the class uttered, “the generation gap”.

I paused and asked the question, "What is the generation gap”?  The 'Gen-Next' of FMBs, all those aspiring to lead businesses, big and small, launched by their grandfather’s/father’s/uncle’s business, appeared to be thinking hard for an answer.   

After a few murmurs, a student raised his mobile phone and said, “Ma’am, generation gap is simple to define. We all use smartphones priced over Rs. 20,000 and our parents use phones less than Rs. 20,000. They want everything at a low price and we want good things even if priced high”.

Voila! Is the tech savviness the reason for generation gap, or the perception of money and its utility value? I was amused. After a decade of interacting with innumerable families in business and young successors, I have observed a common factor that determines the failure or success of family-run enterprises.  It is the family’s collective perception of “money” and the value attached to it.

We may define the value of money from the utility we can derive by spending it. We may also link it with our aspirational quotient. For each of us, the concept of “value for money” could differ.

Successful families that work together in the business cohesively and harmoniously, practise a common code of “value for money”. The purposes for which money is spent or invested or distributed are clearly defined, collectively agreed to, and prioritised for the common good of the family. The trouble starts when two generation members (usually) differ in their perception of the utility value of money and also fail to align their individual perceptions with the family’s perception.

For example, the younger scion may treat money as a means of personal comfort and pleasure and the head of the family may treat it as a scarce and precious resource to build the family’s wealth. Two generations, two varied purposes…individual’s pleasure and family’s security, if not aligned, are bound to create trouble.

The generation gap is a nebulous concept. It has existed in every generation since time immemorial and we will be trying to fathom it till kingdom come. Maybe it’s not just about two generations’ money perceptions but it’s also about the family values and social values that we transfer or fail to transfer to our next generation.




<p>Well written piece. I wonder if the difference in &nbsp;"value for money" can be correlated with something like "amount of time spent by business owner in parenting"?</p>

Madam, It’s quite interesting the way you have described Generation Gap. A new dimension to generation gap has been portrayed to which I totally agree. I would like to add that the value of time is another major difference that is observed between successive generations. A son may consider that spending extra money may save him some time, while the father may think that some extra time may save him some money. Overall a very nice reading experience.

Full marks to your student for defining Generation Gap with very common example which we can relate very well. Although it’s a nebulous concept, but by virtue of economy the definition stands apt. I am looking at it from different perspective and would like to define it differently. The Generation Gap is a difference between mindset of two livings created by time and betterment of education. To keep it relevant I shall refer to the same illustration w.r.t utility value of money. The father treats money as a resource to build family’s wealth, whereas son treats the same as means of comfort. Perhaps this may be because both of them are having different objective of life and definition of pleasure. And I believe with time and betterment of education our objectives and definitions have changed.

It is a fact that there is a big cultural gap between generations in today’s family business. There is not one reason for this state of affairs. Many factors such as technology, demographic changes, and societal transformations have led to this widening cultural chasm between current business leaders and their probable successors. It has always been difficult for the older generations to come to terms with the values and attitudes of new generations. Family business leaders worry about their children’s ability to manage complex family and business dynamics. Some old leaders are of the opinion that their children are not very entrepreneurial. On the other hand the potential successors/children of these old leaders believe that their elders are not able to embrace technology. Bridging these differences at the earliest in the most amicable manner will go a long way in alleviating the issues related to the succession process. In order to overcome these generational gaps, I believe that current and future business leaders should consider the following: a)Establish formal arrangements for negotiation and conflict resolution. Regular meetings with a professional arbitrator can facilitate to get emotionally charged matters out into the open. b)For older generation meaning of the word success is hard work and physical presence in office. On the contrary the new generation who have grown up with technology and luxury believes in smart work, wants greater freedom and virtualization of office hours (eg: to do their work anytime anywhere and not only in office).Eventually the only way to resolve the conflict in these working styles is by developing mutual admiration for different ways of getting work done.

As rightly pointed out in the blog, generation gap is a nebulous concept and existed since time immemorial. But one important question which comes to my mind when I think about generation gap is, has the gap widened over the generations? If you ask me the answer is a big yes. When you compare the gap between our grandparents to our parents and our parents and us, we can see a significant difference between the two. I believe that one reason for this widening gap is the advent of technology. Our grandparents were born in a generation where there was only electricity, our parents were born in a generation where there was Television, we were born in a generation where there was personal computer and internet, our children will be born in a generation where there is free internet and space travel. The technology has seen a quantum growth over the past few generation and different generations have been exposed to varied amount of information. This availability of information is what I believe makes one generation different from another. Family values, social values, living habits etc. is something which we learn from what is passed on as information to us. As and when we delve deep into this information we find some things which need to change and make it a part of our culture and thus making it a part of our generation.

Nebulous is the perfect word to describe the generation gap. As Ma’am rightly mentioned it may not just be about “value for money” that the generations may differ on, it is much more than that. It is often seen that our parents and grandparents have been very conservative when it comes to spending on luxuries. Their philosophies were more aligned towards spending only on what is necessary and basic to a decent living standard. Any earnings over and above were meant to be saved for the coming generations. However, we as Gen Next, share a different perspective altogether. We like to live in the present than think about the future at the cost of what we can enjoy now. For us, the hard earned money should be utilised to experience all leisure’s which we can afford. But that does not take us away from the importance of savings as well. We do believe in saving the required amount. A significant reason for such different perspective can also be owed to purchasing power of money over the years. For example, the joy that our parents would have experienced by purchasing their first scooter, we experience the same by buying may be an SUV. Things that are easily available to us now, were probably not available to them. Furthermore, generation gap is often considered to have caused gap in family values and morales as well. It is perceived of gen next that they do not believe in the value system anymore. That is incorrect. Similar to our difference in opinion about value for money, we share a different view about the morals and values as well. We still believe in our culture and value system that our parents have inculcated in us. We may not express them in the similar manner as our parents but we do have them in us. For example, because of the busy lifestyle that we live in we may not meet relatives and cousins frequently but we do make use of other means such as social media to stay connected.

I am reminded of year 1996 when I received pocket money for the first time on my birthday from my parents. Though the amount was only Rs.10, I was thrilled to receive the money which I spent on cookies, toffees and one Samosa. Yes, this is what Rs.10 was worth then! I went back home and asked for more money from my parents, but to my disappointment my request was rejected! My parents explained to me why it was important to save money and spend judiciously. Although, then I could not understand what they meant, I realize today after 20 years why they said it. Most of the Indian middle class families of the 90’s had to struggle to earn money since opportunities were few. An excellent job would pay you as much as what a lunch at a popular restaurant would cost today. This is what is known as time value of money which is certainly one factor which has caused the generation gap. Things which today’s generation perceives as cheap, the older generation thinks to the contrary. However, I wonder if time value of money is the only factor that has caused this gap? Although technology has made us smarter and quicker, I believe it has widened the generation gap even further. Technology has made us more visible but has also made us less accessible. Befriending more than 2000 friends on Facebook makes no sense when you can’t count 2 people in your life who will be there for you when you need help the most. Compared to the older generation, where you can easily find relationships which have lasted for long, the generation of today is dispersed. We have lost emotional connect and the generation gap has widened. I am reminded of my recent group VISA interview at the American consulate in Mumbai, where phones were banned. It was painful to queue up on a sunny day but the entire batch had fun speaking to each other because smart phones were not available. When I see toddlers with smart phones in their hands and their young parents deeply immersed in their virtual world of technology, I wonder if this generation gap will widen further.

Hello Ma’am, It’s quite interesting to read the way you have given a fresh perspective to the nebulous concept such as ‘Generation Gap’. ‘Value for Money’ and ‘Value for Time’ are the two key factors that distinguish the two successive generations, especially family businesses. This reminds me of a witty note that states ‘In olden times a father used to walk twenty minutes to save twenty rupees but now a son spends twenty rupees to save his twenty minutes’. This quote fairly depicts the different perspectives that the two generations have for the utility value of Money and Time. As rightly pointed out, these different perspectives can be due to massive technological advances and demographic changes over the past few decades. This may prompt the younger generation to treat money as a means of personal comfort while it may be precious resource for a family’s security for the older generation. I believe, specifically for family businesses, this difference of attitudes can be attributed to the fact that the younger generation has inherited the business from the father’s and forefather’s and do not appropriately understand the effort, the turmoil and the hardships that there older generation has witnessed to set up the business. This is also a concern with the older generation that lacks confidence in their successors because they feel that the younger generation is not capable to sustain their business. Facts state that 70% of the businesses lose their wealth by the second generation and only 15% businesses survive by the third generation. Thus, there is an ultimately need to bridge the widening generation gap in order to sustain family businesses. I feel a simple and effective solution to bridge generation gap can be through effective communication and judiciously understanding and valuing each other’s perspectives.

As I remember, the topic ‘Generation Gap’ has been largely spoken since the end of 20th century. Globalization, easy access to education, technology, life styles and availability of funds have been major defining factors causing huge gap among two generation. Time given to old generation to understand and adapt to this newer world was very very limited. Such drastic changes in a short span has never been noticed in our previous generations. And though the changes happened, were gradual and easy to imbibe. This gap is very much visible today and reflects highly in behavior, communication, likes and dislikes, priorities and many other aspects. I think there should be a good balance of both generations which will produce great results. Think of Patience, Wisdom and Experience and Old generation has got all these skills. Looking at the other side of it, Speed, Technology, Exposure to diverse perspectives and various education avenues has given a great mileage to new generation over old generation. These characteristics are important in today’s environment. Businesses have risen and fall due to differences in generation gap. Some old business have seen a down trend while some have multiplied from one generation to other. Business demands best of both the generations. The major characteristic which should be common and nonnegotiable are the values which one has. There cannot be any justification for compromise of values. When we look at Tata group, from generation to generation they have maintained the values, and successfully developed their businesses. With this as the guiding principle, I think the modern world will accommodate both generations provided each one take a step towards the other. As quoted in one of the business magazine articles on ‘bridging-the-generation-gap’ “In order to build a cohesive team in your business it is helpful to consider the generation that your employees fit into. Research shows that Boomers and Matures feel younger than their actual age. The younger generations do not share this feeling and often perceive or treat the Boomers and Matures older than they feel, often causing a great deal of animosity when it comes to working together”

A nicely explained article on generation gap. Completely agreeing to what you have explained here, I would like to touch upon a different perspective of generation gap. A major factor contributing to the generation gap is the current era of modernization and development whether it’s social or economical. The dictionary meaning of Generation Gap is only a difference in attitudes between people of different generations but in real sense it’s much more than that. Taking my own example: While I choose to go out with my family & friends to celebrate any occasion, my father senses more happiness in celebrating it at home, while I prefer to opt for easy EMI’s to buy any electronics, my parents prefer not to buy one till they have enough to do the down payment. The main reason behind all this is that I started earning in an era where we don’t bother much about our future savings and earn, spend and live our lives, while our parents earn, save and spend the remaining on the necessities. The thinking of today’s generation has completely changed where we always want to earn more so that we can spend more to satisfy our desires. While this process is good for any economy as it boosts the domestic demand but this also creates a generation gap in the society. The Generation Gap is the difference in opinion and ideas between people born during different time periods. This gap often leads to misunderstanding and lack of trust between the two groups. The elders are more critical of the younger generation with a big stock of complaints against the youth and the young mostly tend to ignore the grumbling and mumbling older generation. It could also be seen as the constant struggle of the parents to prevent their kids from doing things that their own experiences and wisdom tell them is not right. The kids on the other hand try constantly to prove to the parents that they are equipped to take control of their lives. This tussle goes on but if both sides give due respect and value to others thinking and never hesitate to see the things from different perspective, the gap will bridge.

As rightly mentioned, one of the factors of generation gap is money perception, family and social values. In a typical Indian society, we often see the older generation giving a lot of preference to culture, values and superstitions. For instance, my aunt used to tell me not to cut nails at night. On questioning why she would reply that “It is not shubh for house”. It was hard to believe as logically it would not make sense to me, initially during old days it would make sense to ask people not to cut their nails at night as electricity was not invented then and people would have injured themselves while trying to cut nails in the dark. Today’s generation look for logical answers. I feel, apart from money perception, family and social values, education is also one of the factors of generation gap. Earlier education did not play as important role as it plays in today. Today even a maid sends her kids to school. Education helped the new generation to find logical answers to the superstitious beliefs that were imposed on them by the older generation. This creates differences between the thinking and disagreement between both the generations. Today with a lot of people going abroad to study further they are exposed to a different environment and experience totally different culture. When they come back home they don’t wish to do things the way their parents must have done back in their times. Most of our parents must have retired from the same company where they started their career, while we don’t stick to a company for more than 5 years. We are the generation who are hungry for growth and to fetch our hunger we keep changing and don’t be at place where we get stuck, we move on to a different company who will allow us to grow further. This idea does not go down well with the generation that our parents belong to. With education, knowledge and exposure, we see a huge generation gap between the new and older generation.

First of all, very appropriate example took by your student to explain the generation gap. It is something which has prevailed throughout the current young generation. It can be because of number of reasons like education, peer quality, moral teachings etc. Education quality has changed multiple folds since our fathers' and forefathers' time, from traditional blackboards to whiteboards and projectors and so the ways of spending and saving money. When it comes to family business, money is the only thing that the people associated with the business should focus on because profits is the ultimate measure of your performance. It is a saying that we (people of current age22-35) are hearing throughout our lives that spend less and save more, in terms of cash, otherwise you will become broke soon. It is a teaching which fathers give to their young children who are running family businesses. Today's generation believe in expanding business and expansion in only possible if you are moving towards investing and digitalization. Both the modes of expanding demand spending of money. If you try to explain this to the traditional thinkers, who comes to the shop in the morning, deals with handful of customers and closes the shutters in the evening, they will say it’s a waste of time and money and you will achieve nothing out of this. It is very sad to say that many business have drowned just because of the difference in the thinking of the partners. Take out the history of the famous businesses that failed, one thing that you will find common among the reasons of failure is the difference in the thinking of the people running the business. So it is the need of the hour to make aware the traditional thinkers about the ways to grow the business and to infuse as much as new and innovative ideas so that they can at least start thinking about the modern trend of running businesses. I know it’s a gigantic task to do but at least we can try.

I totally agree with your point of view Mam Perception about money has changed a lot for example most of the young generation investments were made into mutual funds and they do not like to make investments in a bank Fixed Deposit (FD) where the return is low. But the real question is it heading the right direction? Today is a time when marketing campaigns, lifestyle advertisements and the high living shown on movies and TV's constantly encourage you to spend now, pay later, and living any other way is looked down upon. In our fathers' generation, spending money meant taking your wallet out of your pocket, opening it to see how much money you had, and then counting out notes one by one and handing them over to pay for whatever you purchased. This very physical act in itself served to remind you to be prudent, since you could feel your money slipping out of your hands. Now, that physical act of counting out your money is gone, replaced with the swipe of a card that will be handed back to you once it passes through a machine. You don't know how much money there is to spend, you don't see it going away, and in fact, you are allowed to spend it even if the required amount is not there in your bank account. Everyone wants to have the rich lifestyle. But who actually lives like that? Someone who is called rich today, worked his whole to accumulate, say, one crore. Now he has invested that money and it generates 2 lakhs every month. He can afford to spend that 2 lakhs - after all, his one crore will remain intact. But he did not become rich by thinking like that. No, he will spend only 1 lakh a month, and invest the remaining lakh as well! So now that 2 lakhs of monthly income becomes 3 three lakhs, then 4. Buying a 50k iPhone just because everyone else around you, or at least the ones you wish to emulate, is flaunting one? Most if not all things you do on the latest model of the iPhone can be done equally well on a 10k rupee phone. What makes us spend 5 times as much just for the cache that a 'brand' gives us? For Apple, of course, the fact that you buy into their marketing and brand image is making them laugh all the way to the bank. They become the most valuable company in the world and build up assets of billions of dollars. Just think, if instead of putting that 50k in something that would become obsolete in six months, you had invested it, it could have been the start of a business by itself. The story of our young generation is similar to the story which we read in school of a grasshopper and an ant.The grasshopper never saved up his food, indeed he laughed at the ant who slogged at storing food away for some unforeseen eventuality. That eventuality was, of course, winter. When winter came, the grasshopper starved while the ant had plenty of food to eat. So, as we aspire to be as flamboyant and carefree as the grasshopper, we should remember that it was only the tiny, humble hard-working ant who lived to see the next summer.

Dear Ma’am, thanks for creating a beautifully articulated piece. In my opinion, “Generation Gap” is a jargon that most of us use to describe any clash of opinion with our elder or younger ones. Adding to your point that it is the time value of money which is responsible for the generation gap, I also see this as a function of the ease of access of information. The scope of information that our parents or grandparents had was comparatively restrained as compared to what we have now and same is the case with us and the ones who are younger than us. So, in the years that passed, there was a lacuna of around 20 years which we conveniently pronounced as a difference in age for the generation shift. Now, I feel this gap is reducing even further. These days, one can get to taste difference of opinion within generations which are as less as 5 years apart. Considering the way we are progressing, things are not going to improve any further. Majorly clashes occur because we are not open to understand the base of an opinion. The fast paced life has made us all very impatient and non-flexible to other’s opinions. Corporate sector is no exception to this phenomenon. The recent incidents at Infosys because of the Panaya deal, served as an epitome of the perennial dilemma of “How much” versus “Too much” indicating the difference in the perception of money value between 2 generations. The big question here is that should something be done to bridge this gap? To this my answer would be, instead of wasting energy in finding out ways to bridge the gap – which is a difficult mission to accomplish - one should form peace with the situation and at the same time, extend one’s horizon of understanding to accommodate opinions that other people have.

It is noteworthy how you have described Generation Gap in such simple words with an immaculate example. Generation gap has existed in the society since time immemorial. However, little has been done by either sides to address this which has further “widened” this divide. Generation gap in simplest of the words is a mere difference in viewpoints of individuals. We have come across this nebulous concept in different perspectives but economic dimension added to this by the student of your class makes this all the more intriguing. The concept of “Value for Money” has always been subjective and definitions vary based on the individual. As rightly mentioned in the post a cohesive approach towards defining value for money has helped businesses over the year’s generation-to-generation. But what we forget to understand is that harmony and cohesion are inculcated behaviours. The values that trickle down in a family among generations goes a long way in defining perceptions. As younger generation we fail to capitalize on the immense experience of our elders. On the other hand elders reject the ideology which does not matches with their “pre-defined” framework. I believe that communication is the key to narrow this “gap”. There is a need to have open, constructive and collaborative discussions which can go a long way in alleviating this issue. From a business succession perspective this becomes all the more critical as it defines the future state. In my opinion, as a society, we shall look out for the opportunities to mutually admire each other’s thought process and make an effort to understand the rationale behind it rather being authoritative and imposing. Elders can collaborate with the younger generation and assist them to springboard their ideas to zenith. The resulting mutual benefits may hold the key to embrace the change and alleviate the gap.

I will start again with the question “What is generation gap?” as I scrolled through this blog and the comments, I read different perspectives of the term. Adding another dimension on the same, for me Generation Gap is conflict between people and their ability to change/adapt with the changing time. In my view, it has got nothing to do with the year of birth but with the acceptance and adaptation of the overall socio-economic culture at a given time. To elaborate this further let me share a few examples, my father’s and my view on money differ, where I think of money as a precious resources, he thinks of it as a means to a better lifestyle and hence uses it that way. I wonder who is “younger” in their thought process here, for me he is far more progressive and agile than I am. Another example is that of the legendary author Khushwant Singh, going by the 10 years a generation rule, he is good 8 generations apart from me and still I hardly find people with such broad mind and clear thoughts even today. His views on religion, feminism and societal norms were adaptive, progressive and forward looking. He was younger than so many of us in so many ways. When my 20 year old cousin talks about her need to be independent and her views on individualism and the restrictions Indian parents put on their children making them more dependent, I feel offended and casually comment that kids today don’t respect their parents, what I forget is that the need of independence or self-dependence today is rising and the problems youngsters face when they move out of their cocoons because of being overly dependent on their family. I would conclude by saying that Generation Gap is an exaggerated concept we all use to undermine other’s point of views and it can be easily tackled if we all become more respectful of each other’s views, agile to the needs of the changing times and more accepting of the fact that change is the only constant.

It was interesting to read unique perspective on Generation Gap. Something usually attributed to a incoherence in the value system of people brought up in different times. This divisive measure is often used to validate the chasm that pervades most families in the present age. There is little communication between people our age group and their parents, and the reason usually cited is that “they don’t understand”. This absence of perception makes not only running a business difficult but affects lives in even more profound ways. The cell phone example illustrates how different generations attach a different amount of monetary value to something as basic as a mobile phone. The underlying reason perhaps being that they grew up in an environment very different from their parents, where spending money on gadgets isn’t unusual. A similar analogy could be applied to several other professional decisions and lifestyle choices. This is an age where risk taking is celebrated and hence millennials venture into uncharted territory to prove themselves. It would be amazing if people belonging to different generations make an attempt at understanding the rationale behind each other’s decision making. The newer generations must also attempt to recognize and take advantage of the years of experience our elders have to offer.

I come from a joint family. Generation Gap is something I have noticed in my family for many years. Be it the difference in the value of money for a father and a son, the way to conduct a business or a mother in law’s expectation from her daughter in law, this gap can be perceived in all relationships. Despite all the love, affection and care, there is an emotional gap between members of different generations which leads to misunderstandings and tensions in the family. A child when young looks at his parents as his ideal. He learns everything they teach without questioning the rationale and follows whatever they say. As he gets older and sees the world, he begins to compare everything he sees or hears with what his parents have taught him and then begins to have his own view on issues. Sometimes his view does not corroborate with his parents’. It is here that the seeds of misunderstanding get sown, which gradually becomes the source of gap between the two generations. Another difference commonly noticed between generations is the way to conduct business. It is the younger generation of today that sells a product at a lesser margin in a fest or an expo if it finds an opportunity to sell more quantities. The older generations are still not very receptive to the idea of paying the organizer something extra to set up a counter in such events. They are fine with confining their business to the shop and selling products to customers at fixed prices even if the business ends up earning lesser sales. Perception of money is again very different for the two generations. While a father buys a shirt and a trouser during Diwali at Rs.1000, his son prefers going to John Players and purchasing Diwali dress at Rs.3000-4000. This difference in perceiving the value of money gradually piles up and creates an understanding gap between the two. I tried to figure out if this gap was confined to a business or is prevalent in family relationships also. I discussed this with my mother and aunts who are now mother-in-laws and were daughter-in-laws at some point in their lives. I realized that this gap existed even then and still continues to exist. Expectations from a daughter-in-law are the same what a mother-in-law was expected to do in her days and what she obviously did. Waking up early in the morning, getting engaged in household chores and continuing till night are not the things someone from my generation would follow anymore. The elders in the family must realize this. Generation gap has been ever-existing in all relationships. It is important to bridge this. The older generation has to start this by understanding the perspectives of the younger. The younger ones also should respect and understand the views of the more experienced in the family. Differences in working styles should be ignored as long as the outcome is not impacted. This would lead to a more understanding and caring relationship in a family and also to a successful family business.

A great connection between ‘Value for money’ and ‘Generation gap’ pointed out by you Maam! It’s a food for thought for our generation who uses the term ‘Value for Money’ loosely to justify our choices for a restaurant or a movie theatre today. I would like to take it forward from the point where you talk about ‘generation gap’ being an outcome of not only ‘value for money’ but also of social and family values. Being a member of the Gen Y community, the definition of social and family values for me has reshaped itself over the years from saying ‘Namaste’ to our elders in the 2000s to greeting ‘Hello’ to our educated Aunts today. Every parent wanted to send their child to a Convent in those days and wanted them to learn Western etiquettes and lifestyle. My childhood has also developed in a Convent and between my relatives alternating between ‘English me bat kiya karo’ and ‘Umar dekh k bat kiya karo’. Similar to the families, the society has also been evolving. Gen Y has seen their mothers in veil transforming to the ones in jeans and kurta today. Thus, it has been a struggle for both the gen X and gen Y communities to coordinate and match up with the pace of world change. Generation gap is just about keeping up with this pace of change of society and family. Being adept to adapt is the way to bridge this difference of pace. I would not disagree with the FMB student when he said that we want good things even if its priced high. It is simply because our Gen X parents have nurtured us by giving us the best of what they could provide and hence we got Rs. 20,000 phones and they settled on Rs. 13,000 cell phones. This doesn’t mean that we are not willing to interchange these phones, it sometimes means that we want to give them the satisfaction and the credit of giving us higher priced commodities. Therefore, it boils down to keeping faith in each other, in fact in every generation, and understanding their pace of catching up with the changing times. When parents say “we believe that it’s good for you today”, we need to realise that they have taken the older definition of ‘good’, adjusted it with their extra delta tech savviness to reach the recalculated ‘good for today’. Similarly, when a son says “I am going to become a choreographer”, it is on the parents to realise that it is his self-awareness and passion that is leading him rather than the Western Culture driving him. As you said Maam, generation gap is a nebulous concept but it is not something that can’t be made clear. It just takes a few steps, one at a time from each generation to overcome this gap of values, money or thoughts. I totally believe in this quote, “Taking a leap of faith is better than taking a leap of doubt”.

At the onset, let me thank you ma’am for this brilliant article. I do agree that there is a big gap between generation in today’s family managed businesses and the gap is widening from generation to generation. I believe the gap can be attributed to various factors such as technological changes, perceptions, acceptability to changes and so on. If we talk about businesses, previously the decisions taken by the head of the family was accepted by others even though if the decision was not the best one given the problem statement. However, today’s youth are more expressive and prefer to voice their concerns over the situations they face. Another reason why there is a gap between generations is the perception towards changing technology and business conditions which I can relate to the situation my friend was facing in their family business. Due to changes in their business environment, he wanted to alter some processes to stay competitive. However, his dad was not too confident about his idea and he wanted to continue with the conventional way they have been following all these years. In the current generation, we usually see that risk taking is celebrated and has a direct correlation with the rewards which might not be the case with the older generation. Exactly is the case when it comes to perceiving value of money. For our parents, money was a valuable and a scarce resource and they preferred to save it for family’s security rather than spending on leisure or personal comforts. However, for younger generations, money is perceived as a source for personal comforts and making their life better. Though our parents perceive similar value irrespective of the money they spent on a smartphone, we perceive more utility on high end smartphones. We believe high end smartphones with better specs and more capabilities makes our life a little easier. Though, we have been discussing about the generation gaps, according to me, there have been no change in the value system between the generations. The substance of the value system that passes from one generation to other is still the same, just the form is different. For example, we might not take part in various family functions but still we are connected with our cousins and other family members better through social media, video calls and so on. To resolve above mentioned differences or to narrow it down, people belonging to different generation should try to understand the rationale behind what others do. The younger generation should respect and learn from the experiences the elders possesses and the older generation should also trust the younger ones and should try to leverage on their technological capabilities.

Ma’am, I appreciate your efforts in advancing your thoughts and experience of your class in regard to generation gap. Indeed, “Generation Gap” is one of the most widely talked topics when it comes to transfer of business from gen X to gen Y. what’s more, no other place could be better than a class of FMB to talk about this issue. In any case, I think that family business transfer is just a piece of this broad topic. Though, for me, your reasoning is justified when you retrained yourself and your definition and discussion to value for money while addressing the issue because I assume that the discussion was conditioned in such a way that students were made to think this way, perhaps because of the answer of the student. What I can construe from the anecdote and answer given by the student is that generation gap is difference in opinions among family members of different age about value for money. However, generation gap issue goes beyond just family business transfer. It engulfs more than that. Having said this, I reaffirm my aforementioned statement about the scope of the title. We can see and observe this in our everyday life. Every now and then, the new generation appears to confronting the previous generation. But I choose to have a slightly different opinion. I think that the gap is narrowing with the generations to come. These days younger generation is closer to their previous generation, closer than ever before. I vividly remember an example given by our Dean in the class of YTT. He had said that he was sixteen when he first confronted his father, and it was a “scene”. Whereas now, if his son doesn’t go up against him, it is a scene. Does it mean that generation gap is increasing? No. In fact, it’s good to have a face-off on a day-to-day basis. That is not even a showdown for me. That prevents a smaller issue to snowball to become a bigger one. And I think most of the people will believe that any problem should be dealt meticulously without a second’s pause, without letting it become a more challenging problem. That helps bridge the gap quickly, that fills the crack. I concur that younger scion perceives money as medium for a comfortable life. The previous generation did think it a scarce source, but not anymore. With consistently diminishing generation gap, the elder members of the family are ready to acknowledge that money which they perceive, is being spent on leisure activities, is actually aimed for a greater good. And they are willing to spend themselves, if they think that the money spent will fetch more money. They ought to and do believe in the younger generation.

Hello Ma’am, Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Truly an interesting read! Generation Gap as a topic is indeed difficult to encompass into one definition. The example of the smartphone given by your FMB student, however, very succinctly puts the idea across. It is indeed true that a family’s collective perception of “money” and its usage affects the decision making process at all steps of a family managed/run business. However, there is another dimension that adds to this situation, “Value for time” which is in turn driven by technology. Gen-Next is fuelled up with ideas such as “Fail-Fast” and “Disruptive innovation”. We believe in disruptive ideas, fast execution, and quick analysis of results. The philosophy of Fail Fast is imbibed in our generation and how we go about our lives. We want smartphones that are smarter and faster than us and reduce the work time. We get frustrated when our laptops hang. We can type without looking down. We read on the go. We text on the go. We are always connected. The first thing we do in the morning is check our mobile phones. We immediately check our phones as soon as we get a ping. Our emails don’t go unread. On the other hand, for our parent’s generation, time and things moved very slowly. They waited for the morning newspaper and read it while sipping tea, waited for their favourite TV-shows to come on TV schedule and used feature phones and landlines. The perceived value/importance of time has changed and as a result, it has led to a discontent which might be called a “Generation Gap”. Time has probably become a bigger asset than money and as a result, our generation is at odds with our parent’s or grandparent’s generation in the matters of time. This poses a large problem for the younger generation which is very adaptive of new technology and wants to experiment with new ideas. It also becomes an issue for the older generation which goes about things slowly and is not very adaptive of technology. Lack of willingness of the older generation towards learning new technology or adapting new ways faster, is often perceived as ‘Derogatory’ to the business by the younger generations. This issue arises due to a lack of understanding on the part of both the parties involved. The older generation needs to be aware of the changing times and need to make efforts to keep up with it. On the other hand, the younger generation or Gen-next, needs to be mindful of these challenges that cause this gap and consciously work on them. Rather than getting upset over these issues or arguing about them, they need to understand the differences and discuss them wisely. They can maybe help their parents or grandparents learn the technical aspects and how technology is affecting the businesses of today. But as you said, maybe this issue has a lot more to do with what we transfer to the next generation or fail to transfer, and can only be solved when we consciously communicate the differences and respect them.

Written beautifully, this article is a slightly different and more pinpoint take on a vast topic such as generation gap. It is very true that people from different generations tend to value money differently. I was able to witness this in my own household when my father used to tell watered down prices of things to my grandfather so as not to upset him with how much money is being increasingly spent on goods and services. I think along with a basic difference in thinking that comes from growing up in different environments, a part of this also comes from the fact that with rising inflation the value of money changes. What one could purchase for INR 100 in the 1950s is vastly different from the 1980s and much more so from the millennial era. Therefore, while it might not be a big deal for me to spend INR 500 on a meal at an expensive restaurant, for my parents that amount means quite a lot. While pretty apt, the explanation is maybe slightly limited in terms of explaining something as vast and vague as generation gap. As ma’am mentions towards the end of the article, maybe generation gap is more than just how one values money. In my opinion, generation gap is the difference in the basic way of thinking and perceiving things. While our grandparents, who grew up in an era fraught with war and economic turmoil are utmost concerned with safety and stability, we see that our parents are maybe more liberal. This can partly be because they witnessed happier times when growing up in an expanding economy and an era that was relatively peaceful. The millennials are thus even more amplified versions of this kind of thinking. Most of us grew up in households with more or less stable income, were provided with the best of amenities that our parents could afford, received good education and were provided every opportunity possible to pursue our interests. We were raised in a safe and secure environment, with a much more optimistic view of the world and the kind of opportunities that would be offered to us. So, while our choices of unconventional careers may shock our parents and possibly absolutely terrify our grandparents, to us they seem quite normal and possible. Further, the changes in the social structure have also contributed to changing the mindset of the society as a whole. Liberalisation and globalisation have also led to a more open minded and non-conservative approach to most things. This difference in outlook is the basic essence of generation gap and I believe that more than anything else it stems from the environment we grow up in as that shapes our thinking. And since that is constantly changing and evolving, each generation will invariably think differently from its previous generation. The concept of generation gap is something we can only learn to manage, but never eradicate completely.

Ma’am, I like your analysis of the generation gap through the concept of value for money, especially the mobile phone example that was used to illustrate the difference in the perception of the two generations in terms of spending habits. This example makes a compelling argument that the concept of value for money has changed and contributed to the generation gap. However, I think the major difference is because the way we interact with technology has changed. A research conducted in metro cities show that the way cell phones are used varies between generations. For example, the new generation views their smart phone as a channel to access the news, communicate swiftly via email, share information, and record experiences. On the other hand, the old generation uses mobile devices primarily for calling and taking photos. Although the new generation might spend more on phones, they utilize them much more. In my opinion, the new generation wants to maximize the utility of their assets and are willing to pay a premium to obtain additional benefits. Millennials are leveraging technology for networking and nurturing relationships. Young professionals have adopted LinkedIn for professional networking and are using social networking sites to connect with people informally. Older folks have been slow in adopting these changes and still prefer emails. As a millennial, I value deep relationships over superficial connections. Today, the internet allows us to overcome geographical barriers and to stay connected with people. The millennials value this opportunity and are using it to make strong connections and to maintain them. I perceive my network as a strong asset with life-long benefits. I think that the new generation does value money and is inventing in generating resources which will help them further their careers in the future. A study shows that the new generation values peer networking at work as much as attending traditional networking events. This type of networking provides an opportunity for peers to share information and to explore new avenues to collaborate. This trend can be seen in tech-giants and start-ups. For example, the open office spaces at Google which were aimed to create a collaborative and mellow office environment. On the flip side, generation X prefer cubicles which provide more privacy. Although the open office spaces do not increase productivity unlike their claims, cubicles are also not very effective as they lead to working in silos. In my opinion, the solution lies somewhere in the middle. The question is not about who is right or wrong. It is about acknowledging that generation gap does exist and about creating an environment that is conducive to both generations. Each generation has its own core values and world view. A survey reveals that the old generation business owners think that their children are not entrepreneurial while the new generation thinks that their parents are not embracing the new technologies and ideas. There is a clear gap of perception from both ends. In this situation, bringing a balance is very important and both the generations must find a middle ground.

As Mrs. Dixit rightly suggests, the ever-persistent generation gap between every pair of consecutive generations, is driven by varying perceptions, and the most commonly observed measure of this variation is the difference in perception of money and the value attached to it. These varying perceptions are probably inadvertent in nature as they tend to stem out from one’s surroundings. The bout of globalization over the last three decades enabled rapid intermixing of the western culture with the then prevalent value system in India. This probably widened the perceived generation gap as a large number of individuals underwent a steady shift in their overall outlook of the world. It is natural for such people to be perceived as possessing a divergent take on life, as compared to preceding generations. Along with this, the steady yet rapid rise in commodity prices meant that children born during the years of this rapid economic growth and inflation were exposed to a relatively lower value of money from the beginning itself. These children were born in a time when the concept of being able to purchase something for under a rupee ceased to exist. This induced a rapid widening difference in viewpoint on the value of money. Members of generation X were born in a time when opportunity was not easy to come by. Every step of success needed humbling levels of hard work. This tends to make a person relatively careful and conservative in approaching rapid changes in life. It causes people to attach more value to every unit of money, and are hence relatively more conservative in overall consumption. On the other hand, their children, members of younger generations, born in a comparatively better period in time- a time when the average Indian started spending and consuming more, tend to be more adventurous in risk taking and desire to consume more. As a result, this deviation between the two perspectives can cause friction between members of a family, especially when it comes to how money should be utilized. This apparent ‘generation gap’ can be looked as a strength for a family, rather than a challenge. Having at least one member put forward differing viewpoints on almost every matter, creates a conducive environment for more effective decision making within families. Rather than shunning such differences in opinions, embracing alternate perspectives put forward by family members can be beneficial in imparting values such as freedom of speech & openness, which in the long run helps create a more transparent atmosphere at home. This would not only improve empathy towards family members, but also widen every family member’s overall perspective. Generation gaps should not be frowned upon, but rather be accepted as a part of the change that is inevitable in our society. It can actually be a desirable situation for families that are ready to view each member as an individual with an independent thinking.

Ma’am, you rightly pointed out that the perception of money differs over generations. But I do not think we have a disagreement over money being a scarce resource. For us money is as important and as valuable as it is for our father. Just that, the exaggeration when our parents say that we started off with a salary of Rs.100 and from there we have come a long way, falls flat on us because if you eliminate the inflation and bring back the same foreign exchange rate for rupee, probably even today we will only be a little less prosperous than we are today. The difference lies in how we perceive utility against value of money spend for it. We purchase phones worth more than 20 grands because we literally do everything on our phones today. Even this comment I am writing using my phone and above all, we are very comfortable in exploiting the utilities offered by an expensive phone. If I ask my father to comment on this blog, he would probably need a laptop or a desktop PC. Before coming to SPJIMR, I worked with a software firm earning enough to live a mediocre bachelor life. For the occasion of my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary, I had booked a booked a resort in Goa for 3 days and arranged their travel to Goa by air. Had I allowed my father to plan the trip, he would have made bookings in some budget hotel and for travel would have booked train tickets. But then, making their special day absolutely memorable for them was much more important to me than saving some money. I had to substantially cut down on my living luxuries to be able to save enough for this plan because it was much more important to me than any weekend getaway. The point here is our generation has begun to value an experience more than the cash. Probably that is the reason Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who I believe connects better with our generation, focuses more on an investment on projects like a Bullet Train despite the opposition. It’s just that that explaining the utility associated with the extra money spent to our parents is an arduous task. Till about a couple of years ago, when the infrastructure of IRCTC was not so well developed, my father was absolutely against booking train tickets online because of the rampant system failures. He would suggest getting a window ticket over having your money stuck in the account of the railways for a week without having the ticket. Today, when rate of system failures are a little above nil, he would time and again ask me to book train tickets online on my phone rather than sending someone to the railway station to get them. As Bob Dylan said “Time’s a changing”, hope this gap shall narrow down further.

Thank you for the interesting article Ma’am. I agree with you completely when you say “The generation gap is a nebulous concept. It has existed in every generation since time immemorial and we will be trying to fathom it till kingdom come”. When I read this blog, I started reflecting upon the usage of the word in my house. ‘Generation gap’ is the one word my mom uses when she cannot logically win over me in an argument. ‘Generation gap’ is that one word I use when I cannot convince my parents to agree to my view point. When my grandparents express their concern about me spending a lot of time on my mobile phone, the excuse I give is ‘generation gap’ and they wouldn’t understand the technological advancement. When my aunt or uncle complain about the behaviour of today’s children arguing with parents the word they use is the ‘generation gap’. This very gap is the attributed as the major reason behind the paradigm shift in belief and systems across generations. There is a tremendous difference in the understanding of value of money and value of time by different generations. Even if Gen Y has gained a lot with the advancing technology and the comfortable life, they have also lost out on few beautiful things that the older generation had. Our grandparent’s generation had far lesser heart attack cases at the age of 40. They knew their entire neighbourhood, helped each other and lived in harmony. Our parent’s generation had fewer divorce and depression cases. There was value associated with their education and degree. Today we hear this sarcastic comments that every 1 in 10 person is an Engineer. The value associated with education has reduced in the present generation. The definition of happiness is getting changed as we progress. Happiness to our grandparent’s generation was an entire family sitting around and listening to their favourite song played on the radio. Happiness to our parent’s generation was watching a cricket match with friends. Whereas, happiness to our generation is owning the latest iPhone. By advancing as a generation and with the gap increasing, we have to do reality checks at regular intervals to reflect not only upon what we have gained as a generation but also on what we have lost as a generation. If the younger generation can learn from the wisdom of the older generation and the older generation learn from the zeal and enthusiasm of the younger generation, the world will be a happier place. I hope that day when both the generations understand and complement each other’s differences and leverage upon each other’s strengths, we will stop using the word ‘Generation gap’ to put an end to arguments not only in my house but everywhere else.

Author has very well defined the generation gap. However, I feel that family’s collective perception of “money” and “value attached to it” is an outcome of an individual’s “perception about life”. There is a huge difference in the way two generations discern their life. Present or Future! Millennials want to adore every moment of life which in turn drives their behaviour or actions. On the contrary, generation-x wants to play safe in the present for better and safer future. These contradicting perceptions create difference of opinions in business decisions. This is the fundamental reason for failure of any family-run enterprises. Failure can be partly attributed to the emotional value which generation-x puts over their enterprises. The generation-x who has created their enterprises from an idea stage and nurtured it to become a family saviour, have great affection to it. Such affection combined with their age-old experience make them reluctant in admiring modern ideas, which may be riskier in fact, and manifest directing type leadership style in succession process. Having grown up in VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) millennials abhor such kind of leadership. Specifically in India, we have a tradition of fortifying our children from times immemorial. So, generation-x makes millennials overcautious before they interpose any idea, which vigilant millennials generally despise. They want more freedom to express and execute their ideas. They want to learn from triumphs as well as failures. By restricting those from doing so will eventually force them to deprecate family-run enterprises and endeavour some new ventures on their own. On a flip side, I have personally seen many successful family-run enterprises where old generation started admiring and appreciating the viewpoints of millennials. Part of the success can be attributed to the family members who have changed themselves according to the demand of time, which has drastically reduced the gap between two generations. At the same time success can also be attributed to the millennials who admires the knowledge and experience of old generation and make the best use of it. In such families, the leadership style followed by generation-x is diagonally opposite to directing type, where they provide high support and less direction to the successors. Gradually, old generation is becoming more pragmatic in modifying or changing business lines according to the attractiveness rather than putting more emphasis on emotional aspect. They are shifting their mind-set from hard work to work life balance which is the desire of every millennials. In nutshell, it is hard to draw a clear boundary line between two generations. It is just a perception about life, which greatly depends on the time/era in which an individual has grown up. Personally, I appreciate and admire both the perceptions as they were and are the perfect fit for that particular time. Who knows what future generations will demand from the generation in which I have grown up!

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