Lady Gaga and the Heroes of Normandy Beach

What do Lady Gaga and the soldiers that stormed Normandy Beach have in common?  It’s something that will change the way you look at society.

Twelve years ago, the book  ‘The Fourth Turning,’ by William Strauss and Neil Howe hit the streets.  Written by two generational analysts – ‘The Fourth Turning’ will change the way you look at the future. The vast majority of people view time as kind of marching on with no rhyme or reason, just at the whims of random events.  This may not be the case.

The premise of the Fourth Turning is that time moves in a circular fashion … in other words, “it repeats itself.”

Strauss and Howe, after studying history back to the 1500’s, developed an algorithm featuring four generational archetypes each lasting between twenty and twenty-five years.  These archetypes also repeat in order each time and have different characteristics.  The archetypes in order are as follows with birth date range and cycle nickname:

Hero (1901-1924) – soldiers of World War 2 (G.I)

Artist (1925-1942) – country re-constructionists (Silent)

Profit (1943-1960) – protesters of Vietnam War (Boomers)

Nomad (1961-1981) – the outcasts (Generation X)

Hero (1982-2004) – the internet generation (Millennials)

I repeated the Hero generation for a reason.  The boys of Normandy Beach were born around 1922 making them Heroes.  Their generational archetypes is all about cooperation and teamwork.  Being a rogue, like their predecessors, the Nomads, is not their mindset.  That’s why we won the war.  The Vietnam War featured the Boomers (the Profit Generation).  Their generational archetype is known for their … well you know.  Can you say high divorce rate, the self-reflection movement, excessive consumption, etc.  This doesn’t work well in a battlefield.

Now to Lady Gaga, her birth date is 1986 … thus making her a HERO!

Lady Gaga Tony Bennett

Now to my point.  I cut my teeth in business promoting music, in the ’70s and ’80s.  The industry is wildly different today then back then.  Did you ever see Led Zeppelin collaborate with the Who?  Or the Stones and the Kinks record together?  No, they didn’t.  Examples of professional collaboration in the music industry were few and far in between.

Now let’s look at the music industry today.  The Number One viewed music video ever, “Telephone,” was a collaboration between Lady Gaga and Beyoncé.  We’re talking the top two divas in the entertainment world.  Working together … and loving it.  Jay Z, Beyoncé’s husband topped the charts with Alicia Keyes, and the rumour mill is riddled with who will be collaborating with who.  And look at the rappers – everybody is in bed with everybody else (figuratively speaking).  Approximately, 50% of the top songs on Billboard’s Top 50 are collaborations.

Thirty years ago Rush and Journey –  I don’t think so. 


The Millennials, the Heroes, are about collaboration.  I even seen a rash co-working sites pop up.  Now what can we do  to take advantage of this predisposition of working together? As employers what can we take from this.

Traditional thinking … at least from our immediate perspective is that everybody is competitive – and that competition motivates us.  That might be right for us fifty year-olds.  But remember, we are from the Profit generation (Baby Boomers).

But for our employee base, the foundation, the future of our future, the twenty some year olds … don’t think like us.  Don’t get me wrong, competition will always exist – but for that generation, the Heroes, it’s not the prime motivating factor – teamwork is.  To structure a work environment that focuses around pitting one against another may in fact be counter productive.

And on top of it Generation Y (the Heroes) is more interested than any other generation in development and feedback in the work place.  We saw that in the compliance among the troops in World War 2.  It’s a characteristic you as employers can use in your business … one you probably couldn’t have used ten years ago. The Heroes want to excel, but excel together.  It worked at Normandy.  And it’ll probably work now. 

You just have look past the iPods, texting and tattoos.


For more of my musings I can be found at Twitter @clayforsberg.


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11 thoughts on “Lady Gaga and the Heroes of Normandy Beach

  1. I have been thinking a lot about the current revolution in education and most of what I read is from boomers and Gen Xers. But, I got to thinking, what if this revolution, like those in elsewhere, belongs to the Net Gen? How would we who are helping these amazing folks learn, view them and work with them differently?
    Thanks for the post,
    RJ Johnson

    1. RJ – I love this question! Being Gen Y myself, I think students could benefit from educators embracing our collaborative nature and really encouraging it beyond “group assignments”. For example, my local community college pulled students from all different disciplines (architecture, building trades, alternative energy, interior design, etc) to build a phenom team to design a zero-energy home. Because their team was cross-functional and diverse in discipline, they went on to win a national net-zero design contest, beating out some of extremely esteem 4-year universities across the nation.

      Exploit the living daylights out of our collaborative nature when we’re young and malleable. It will do the nation (the world, even) some good when we become adults!

  2. Very interesting. I don’t want to comment too much until I’ve read the book.

    Maybe that’s indicative of me being “lost” and since I’m a Gen Xer.

    I do somehow take offense at the glaring inanity of superficially comparing Lady Gaga to WWII heroes since my grandfather was one of those brave soldiers himself who fought bravely in Bataan and Corregidor.

    But I save my criticism for after reading the book.

  3. this is the shnizzle Derbsdorf. At the risk of invoking Snoop Dogg–look at his early collaboration with Dr. Dre–it was really one of the first examples of this in music with HUGE impact–with the exception of Aerosmith and RUN DMC. ANyway–great to see your mind is still noticing over-arching concepts and the like. You were always one of our best thinkers, and enthusiasm to boot. For the record–I do miss you and hope you are doing well. As a 50 yr. old employer of MANY 25 yr. olds–you absolutely speak the truth. THe motivation is different. 2 yrs. at one company is a LONG time these days–the kids are restless–and they don’t like traditional boundaries/barriers. 15 years ago it was absolutely VERBOTEN to freelance if you had a full time job at an agency. NOw it is a way of life. Rock on YALC. Looking forward to a face to face. Will be seeing Paul from the bowling team Friday night–he’ll be the surprise mystery guest at a gathering for Dick Anderson. GOod times. JH

    1. For all those who read this post. Send some love to my good friend Jeff (just click on his name). For what he does, and there’s many things, he’s the best.

  4. I’m surprised that you’ve totally missed a major generation: Generation Jones, born between 1954 and 1965 they are different to Boomers and Xers, neither ideological, nor cynical but rather pragmatic idealists.

    There’s been a lot written and spoken about them, there’s an interesting video of national pundits referring to Gen Jones available here:

    1. Thanks for the comment. I see the point you’re making. I’m sure the transition from one generation to the next will appear as if it is an entirely different generation in itself. But is this transition period just a combination of both generations combined?

      The leader of the so called Generation Jones, Barak Obama, is definitely a pragmatist, but is he not also ideological (consider his aggressive change plan) and cynical (his distaste for the established banking community). In fact, the largest faction of his advisors are Boomers (Clinton people). This reliance on Boomers might have something to with where Obama “cut his teeth” – Chicago and Boston (Harvard), meaning he actually acts older than he his due the quicker adaption of ideas in large metro areas.

      The question, is Generation Jones a one time thing, or has it existed through last few centuries? I don’t know? It would be interesting to research that.

      The generational archetype date cutoffs are really just approximations. The characteristics of an archetype probably represents the midpoint of each generation, with the edges being combinations of both.

      Good comment however … and excellent point for discussion.

    2. I wrote a good deal about this in response to a Quora inquiry (technically about the first Star Wars movie I’m a 1959 vintage Joneser. 😉

      And in terms of the pragmatic idealist project, I identify with the Democratic Englightenment — 1750-1790 somewhere in there. Were generations longer when communications were slower? My major oevre may have been launching The Tor Project, which is pretty much an image of pragmatic idealism, to my mind.

      As the mom of a 20yo, and a mentor of many kids in the generation in question (I sometimes teach an enrichment course at MIT called “How to Save the World in Your Spare Time”)

      I’ve been trying to put together a project called the Blue Rose Movement, which I specifically envision as a Hero’s Journey to discover/reveal the political/social process, an anti-obscurantist journey of engagement in collaboration as a community with older mentors but for the younger folks. Not a civic game, but a civic network, like a campaign with no candidate, a set of tools to support those who want to become involved with a set of cheerleaders, lurkers, researchers, media producers, advisors, mentors. Not to run for office, but to discover and understand how governance and politics and policy really work, not what they’ve been told (and not told) and presented by the media. And where ideologies differ, venues to argue it out fairly (a la reddit) and go out for beers after. We digital natives are good at that (I have been called the “oldest digital native” by folks at Berkman.).

      So yes, I’ve kind of declared myself a gray bitch alpha wolf of the geeks, and this is a Great Hunt. Not a game, but the great game. The biggest LARP in the world. The real game of thrones. We geeks love world building fiction — F&SF and what not. We are always jumping ahead in the plot. Somewhere around Watergate, we decided RL politics was ikky, stood aside, and the real world went to crap.

      Time to reclaim our place from the asshats who’ve been running the house. Uncover the secret books of knowledge, as it were, recover our memory, and claim our crown. Take some real risks, together.

      Every fairie story is based on a truth you claim as an adult.

  5. Perhaps the best part of this post is the substitution of Prophet for Profit. Amuses me since Boomers have milked every cent possible out of the American economy… truly a “Profit” generation.

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