One of the keynote speakers I was particularly interested in hearing was Mark McCrindle, a market researcher, social trends analyst and futurist from Australia. Mark delivered two sessions – the first a keynote session on “Understanding today’s learners” and a second session on “Engaging with the emerging generations”.
Mark had some amusing examples of how it is possible to get future predictions wrong – including a book he had found on how to survive the 80s, which predicted amongst other things the paperless office and a parking-hassle free future (yeah right!). Most of this session focused on the characteristics of Generation Y (those born between 1980 and 1994) and Generation Z (those born between 1995 and 2009). Mark was careful to point out that the characteristics he was talking about applied to other generations as well – because we are all under the influence of the cultural changes happening. Out of the jargony labels of postlife (we now have tweens, teens, kippers), poststructural (changing working hours, fluid careers), postlinear (basic needs are met, young people are more focused on higher order needs such as self esteem and self actualisation), the one that resonated with me was the postrational label – the need to engage both the head and the heart.
Mark used a quote from Socrates to illustrate his point that generation gaps are global and timeless “Children these days are tyrants, they gobble their food, contradict their parents and tyranise their teachers” – as relevant today as it was in 425 BC. Mark’s message for engaging with the emerging generations was essentially “back to basics” – a need to focus on great communication and focus on the 4 “Is” – Interest, Instruct, Involve and Inspire. He summarised his talk with stressing the importance of the 4 Rs of effective communication – keep it real, be relevant, be responsive (move with the times), relational engagement is the key.
As a marketing student I thought it was great to see someone from this sector delivering sessions at conference. I think librarians are getting a whole lot better at understanding their customers, profiling user groups etc (Auckland City Libraries have just advertised for a Business Intelligence and Planning Manager – wow!), but there is still a way to go. As librarians how much do we use market research and actionable information to drive our decision making about new services, or do we just rely on surveys to tell us how well we’ve done in the past?