See It to Believe It!

In this series, we’ve focused on people, products, organizations and trends which, for one reason or another, have disappeared from the environment they were once so much a part of. We have also predicted those which will more than likely disappear in the very near future.

This time we’re going to provide you with a few resources that can accomplish a couple of things for you:

  1. Provide you with some fond memories you may have forgotten altogether.
  2. Enhance communication skills between generations.
  3. Reveal just how much things have really changed.
  4. Prove the point that while visuals are key to communication, they can also actually make explanations even more difficult to explain.

For the first time in American history, we are faced with the challenge of having four generations working together in the work place. This, of course, presents a major communication challenge which few seem to want to acknowledge. That challenge arises due to opposing environments, traditions, societies, etc. This exercise will demonstrate, in no uncertain terms, how difficult it can be to communicate with a generation other than your own.

Sit with a child or grandchild and attempt to explain each of the following graphics. Keep a close eye on facial expressions and questions which may be asked as a result of your explanation. Let’s get started.

With this first graphic, note that you’ll have to explain not only the spindle itself but the 45 in which it was inserted.

45 rpm spindles

To explain the next graphic, you may want to start by explaining why you need a key for a roller skate as you’ll be talking to someone who has only known rollerblades.

Roller-skate keys

Here you’ll want to explain how much gum had to be chewed to create this necklace, how you folded and connected the pieces and why you couldn’t find anything better to do with your time!

Gum-wrapper chains

You’re going to struggle with this one as you’ll have to explain why, how, and when it was used, which may also lead to explaining how we only had three networks, a few channels, an antenna on top of our house, and the fact that we actually had to walk over to our TV set in order to change channels and turn it on and off.

TV Test patterns

You’ll soon realize how difficult it is to explain that these signs lined our highways from coast to coast with 7,000 different sayings. Click on this link for more history and examples of sayings.  And don’t forget to explain what Burma Shave was.

Burma Shave signs

Try to keep a straight face as you explain how we used to dry our clothes by feeding them through this contraption. Explain that it was also a method of enhancing our biceps which was one of our first ways of multitasking.

Washtub wringers

You may not want to admit that anyone in your family practiced this favorite tradition. However, if you do, explain how and where we got the stamps, how we licked them for hour after hour in order to place them in books, what we traded them in for, and how many boxes of books it took to get the simplest of prizes. Don’t forget to mention Blue Chip Stamps, Gold Bell Stamps, Top Value Stamps, Gold Bond Stamps and Plaid Stamps.

S & H Green Stamps

Try to explain how you attached these to your camera, how they blinded everyone in the room where the picture was being taken, and how easily they burned your hands when you ejected them from the camera.

Flash bulbs

Realizing that you’re talking to someone who takes pictures with a cell and downloads them onto a computer, try to explain what this box is and why we called it Brownie. Be sure to point out that we could get our pictures developed within ten days of snapping them. Point out that you had to wait until the entire roll of film was used and then explain what a roll of film was.

Brownie camera

Don’t even attempt to explain this one. They’ll never believe it.

Penny candy

This one might be even more difficult for them to believe.

15-cent McDonald’s hamburgers

Last, but not least, when explaining how this contraption works and how you stored the cubes after their release, remember that you’re talking to a generation that gets their ice cubes by pushing the button on the doors—and they can get them crushed or cubed.

Metal ice-cube trays with levers

Hopefully, this exercise has illustrated why it’s so difficult to communicate between just two generations. Now consider the fact that we’re dealing with four generations in today’s workplace. Strive for empathy and understanding in dealing with this very real challenge. By the way, it was probably kind of fun attempting this experience, wasn’t it? … regardless of the quizzical looks you had to deal with.

About Harry K. Jones

Harry K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars, keynote presentations, and consulting services. Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer service, creativity, employee retention, goal setting, leadership, stress management, teamwork, and time management. For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629 or fill out our contact form.

One thought on “See It to Believe It!

  1. I thought I understood the point you were trying to make about communicating between generations. We have that problem at work daily. However, I candidly admit I thought your challenge was somewhat feeble.
    I sat with my sister’s two children (16 yr. old nephew and 18 yr.old niece), showed them the pictures and tried to explain each. I was tongue-tied. They stared at me. They smiled. They laughed. They looked at me as though I was describing something from another planet or just putting them on. They doubted every item on the list. You were right. I was wrong. I’m taking that page into work to share with my employees. It graphically explains why we labor to communicate and understand one another. Wonderful tool.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *