Every year, Beloit College in Wisconsin makes an effort to understand the forces that have shaped their incoming class of first-year students. The school looks at the world in which these students have lived, and comes up with their annual Mindset List.

For 20 years, professors have used the list to remember where their new students are coming from, or as an icebreaker for conversations.

The class of 2021, entering this fall, will be the last to be born in the 20th century. What are their realities? Among the 60 items on this year’s Mindset List:

  • They’re the first generation for whom a phone has always been smart.
  • Emojis have always been a way to express yourself.
  • Amazon has meant a shopping destination, not a river.
  • As kids, they set off on a voyage of discovery thanks to Dora the Explorerand her pet monkey Boots.
  • Whatever the subject, there’s always been a blog for it.
  • Ketchup has always come in green.
  • Justin Timberlake has always been a solo act.
  • Bill Clinton has always just been Hillary Clinton’s husband.

The idea behind this list is valuable. When you’re communicating with any audience, think about what they’ve lived through, what they know only second hand, what they’ve been influenced by, how they like to absorb information – it all matters.

As Beloit reminds, people’s backgrounds, experiences and ages all shape their understanding and expectations of the world. When you see things through their eyes, you can craft your message accordingly. So tap into their mindset.

Stuart Foxman is a Toronto-based freelance writer, who helps clients’ products, services, ideas and organizations to come alive. Follow me on Twitter @StuartFoxman, connect with me here on LinkedIn, or check me out at foxmancommunications.com. I would love to hear from you. More articles like this coming, with original posts every week about communications, writing, branding, creativity, media, marketing, persuasion, messages, etc., etc.

August 30, 2017


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