As I’ve gotten older and experienced more public debates and general narratives, I’ve found that the more general a label is, the less informative it is — meaning that we sacrifice deeper understanding in order to gain convenience. Perhaps that’s nothing new.

I guess what irks me about this phenomenon of millennial-bashing, or generational fetishism in general, is what seems like blind faith that we can still find ways of sorting people into large categories in a way that helps us understand them better. The more general a category is, the more useless it is. Sure, there are two kinds of organisms: vertebrates and invertebrates. Very general, but also unhelpful for most purposes.

I think the same thing is exemplified in all these books and articles about generational differences. Some of these claims about how members of each generation tend to act are true (but of course, what’s true is merely a tendency — not anything close to a good predictive pattern). But what have those truths helped us to do? I don’t think they’ve helped us make better sense of people, build better companies, or relate any better to each other.

At this point I’m both preaching to the choir and venting, but I guess my main point is this: for some reason, we keep being attracted to both trying to build broad generalizations, and building narratives around them. But we somehow fail to learn when we experience these narratives to be faulty, and these characterizations to be basically useless.

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Author of “The Wabi-Sabi Way” and “Be, Think, Do”. Subscribe to my newsletter “Woolgathering”:

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