A stack of iPhones

How to thrive in a generational power shift

The Hippocratic Oath is one of the oldest and most famous ethical codes. It is often summarized as “first do no harm.” Yet the original recitation was closer to “abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption.”

Why does it matter? It tells me even back in 400 BC, cognoscente understood human instincts to manipulate the narrative and subsequent outcome. Today’s “cause”: restoring an oath mentality to uphold facts, truth and accuracy while abstaining from any mischief. In other words: first, do no harm. 

Turns out that for this generation, avowing a trust oath became more the domain of business instead of medical school. Since I graduated 20 years ago, the Edelman Trust Report has chronicled a toxic cycle of distrust corroding our increasingly polarized society. The public squarely blames media and government, with business emerging as the only trusted institution today, even ahead of NGOs. 

This last Trust Report revealed a new element of internal communications responsibility: my CEO and “my employer” were the most trusted sources around the world. Today’s employees believe policy information from their employer and accept it as truth, even from a single recitation. Consequently, communications professionals are now unforeseen global keepers of truth and trust. 

The authors of Zconomy, Dorsey & Villa, highlight industries where generational power is shifting based on Gen Z’s trust view. Their last report, which surveyed Gen Zs between 14 - 22, found a more parsimonious population: 12% were already saving now for retirement. Gen Zs will also benefit from history’s greatest capital gift in the “Great Wealth Transfer:” an estimated $60 trillion of wealth (give or take a few trillions) going from boomers to youngers. Gen Z is saving and inheriting — and they will spend according to their values. 

The great wealth transfer is abruptly colliding with the “Great Resignation.” Apparently during the pandemic, we weren’t only on TikTok, but also re-examining all people, places and things in our lives. I predict this involuntary introspection and infusion of trillions in financial freedom will catalyze a pursuit of passions, professions, and purpose.

Which brings us to generational power. The 2021 Visual Capitalist Generational Power Index (GPI) provides a composite of economic, political, and cultural power. The GPI validates Boomers’ wealth and computes they punch above their weight at things like S&P CEOs, Chief Justices and Governors. GPI data tell that “golden-agers” also tower in power when it comes to election campaign spending, with boomers and the Silent Generation controlling nearly 80% of all political spending. This is the 6th Congress in a row that is the most ethnically and racially diverse in history in all areas - except age. In fact, this is the oldest Congress ever; boomers are 56% of the 117th Congressional seats (68% of Senate seats) but 21% of the population.

The great wealth transfer is abruptly colliding with the “Great Resignation.”

But in 2023 the oldest Gen Zs reach Congress’ electable age. Legislation already reflects different opinions of younger voters on issues from cannabis to climate change. Perhaps newly transferred great wealth and resignation will endow younger generations to re-enter such passé fields as public service or academia. I’d like to think these blue flame thinkers will increasingly gather for convocation at journalism or public policy schools. 

Or, perhaps these best and brightest Zs will join our cause as communicators. I predict a return to accountability where the power of a truthful and trusted pen will pave the way back to constructive discourse. I also predict that —even while we have a long way to go —climate change and equality are already tables takes and the next big cause this generation will embrace couldbe democracy and civil society. 

First, do no harm ... and maybe even do some good.