Gen Z vs. Gen Y: What’s the Difference?

The past decade has had significant focus on the impact Gen Y is having on our workplaces. Since different generations are raised with different values, it’s not surprising that we experience shifts in our workplace values as well. Simple value tensions like respecting authority (Baby Boomers) versus a distrust of hierarchy (Gen Y, aka Millennials) will cause workplace conflict. Overall, this increase in generational value preferences has been a healthy movement as it has given us the opportunity to understand our differences. However, the focus on Gen Y is shifting as Gen Z are now entering the workplace (generational age norms are provided below).

Barna Research has released data which helps us understand Gen Z (as well as their predecessors). While Gen Z may share some common ground with Millennials, we would be mistaken to treat them the same. Some of Barna’s more notable Gen Z conclusions are as follows:

  • A key characteristic of Gen Z is that their expectations are largely shaped around themes of academic and career success — more so than any other generation.
  • However, nearly 40% want to spend their 20’s enjoying life before they take on the responsibilities of being an adult—significantly higher than the 25% of Millennials who said this.
  • Six out of the top 10 reasons teens look up to their role model are related to career or financial success.
  • Personal achievement, whether educational or professional (43%), and hobbies and pastimes (42%) are the things most central to Gen Z’s identity. Their responses stand out against those of their elders: Twice as many teens as Boomers strongly agree that these factors are important to their sense of self (22% and 24% in Boomers).

The charts below provide many other helpful insights. However, I encourage you to remember the principle behind this data. We are all created uniquely and for different purposes. The rise of generational awareness is simply a reflection of our desire to be treated as the unique people we are. In fact, you and I personify a microcosm of this same principle. This truth requires you to do more than just manage people. Identifying and maximizing the potential of each employee is the work of a gifted leader!


GEN Z were born 1999 to 2015 (only teens 13 to 18 are in this study) | MILLENNIALS were born 1984 to 1998     GEN X were born 1965 to 1983 | BOOMERS were born 1946 to 1964 | ELDERS were born before 1946

Dr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Contact him today to find out how he can help enhance your personal and organizational effectiveness –

Source: Barna Research

Photo Credit –





The Class of 2021 – 30 Things You Need To Know

Each fall, I provide Beloit College’s overview about the incoming class of college freshmen. This year’s list is a bit different for me as these attributes reflect the mindsets of students born in 1999. This is the birth year of our firstborn son who began his Computer Science program last week. So if you are getting to be an old guy like me, today’s blog may be more than just facts!

I have edited Beloit’s list to 30 items. The complete list can be accessed at the link above.

  1. Their classmates could include Eddie Murphy’s Zola and Mel Gibson’s Tommy, or Jackie Evancho singing down the hall.
  2. They are the last class to be born in the 1900s, the last of the Millennials —  enter next year, on cue, Generation Z! (though this may be disputed by some who would state that Gen Z began graduating from University last spring).
  3. They are the first generation for whom a “phone” has been primarily a video game, direction finder, electronic telegraph, and research library.
  4. Electronic signatures have always been as legally binding as the pen-on-paper kind.
  5. In college, they will often think of themselves as consumers, who’ve borrowed a lot of money to be there.
  6. Peanutscomic strips have always been repeats.
  7. They have largely grown up in a floppy-less world.
  8. There have always been emojis to cheer us up.
  9. It is doubtful that they have ever used or heard the high-pitched whine of a dial-up modem.
  10. They are the first generation to grow up with Watson outperforming Sherlock.
  11. Amazon has always invited consumers to follow the arrow from A to Z.
  12. Their folks have always been able to get reward points by paying their taxes to the IRS on plastic.
  13. In their lifetimes, Blackberryhas gone from being a wild fruit to being a communications device to becoming a wild fruit again.
  14. They have always been searching for Pokemon.
  15. Dora the Explorerand her pet monkey Boots helped to set them on the course of discovery.
  16. By the time they entered school, laptops were outselling desktops.
  17. Once on campus, they will find that college syllabi, replete with policies about disability, non-discrimination, and learning goals, might be longer than some of their reading assignments.
  18. As toddlers they may have dined on some of that canned food hoarded in case of Y2K.
  19. Whatever the subject, there’s always been a blog for it.
  20. Globalization has always been both a powerful fact of life and a source of incessant protest.
  21. One out of four major league baseball players has always been born outside the United States.
  22. A movie scene longer than two minutes has always seemed like an eternity.
  23. The Latin music industry has always had its own Grammy Awards.
  24. As toddlers, they may have taught their grandparents how to Skype.
  25. The BBC has always had a network in the U.S. where they speak American.
  26. There has always been a Monster in their corner when looking for a job.
  27. Wikipedia has steadily gained acceptance by their teachers.
  28. Justin Timberlake has always been a solo act.
  29. Women have always scaled both sides of Everest and rowed across the Atlantic.
  30. Bill Clinton has always been Hillary Clinton’s aging husband.

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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:


Source: Beloit


The Impact of Baby Boomers

Did you know that 1 in 5 people in the North America workforce is of retirement age?

Toffler Associates remind us that 21.7% of the workforce n 2014 were between 65 and and 74 years of age. A common theme in my work is the need for organizations to leverage an increasingly multi-generational workforce. The infographic below provides a useful reminder about the impacts an aging society will have on our lives and our organizations.



Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:

Source: Toffler Associates

30 Things You Need to Know About the Class of 2019

Each fall, Beloit College provides an insightful overview of the incoming class of college freshmen. As the years fly by, it is easy to forget the unique worldview and history that shapes our students. A review of this list is a helpful read for all of us who will be interacting with this class in the year ahead.

I have edited Beloit’s list to 30 items. The original list can be accessed at the link at the end of this post.

Students heading into their first year of college this year are mostly 18 and were born in 1997. 

Among those who have never been alive in their lifetimes are Princess Diana, Notorious B.I.G., Jacques Cousteau, and Mother Teresa.

Joining them in the world the year they were born were Dolly the sheep, The McCaughey septuplets, and Michael “Prince” Jackson Jr.

Since they have been on the planet:

  1. Hybrid automobiles have always been mass produced.
  2. Google has always been there, in its founding words, “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.”
  3. They have never licked a postage stamp.
  4. Email has become the new “formal” communication, while texts and tweets remain enclaves for the casual.
  5. Hong Kong has always been under Chinese rule.
  6. They have grown up treating Wi-Fi as an entitlement.
  7. The announcement of someone being the “first woman” to hold a position has only impressed their parents.
  8. Color photos have always adorned the front page of The New York Times.
  9. “No means no” has always been morphing, slowly, into “only yes means yes.”
  10. Cell phones have become so ubiquitous in class that teachers don’t know which students are using them to take notes and which ones are planning a party.
  11. Their parents have gone from encouraging them to use the Internet to begging them to get off it.
  12. If you say “around the turn of the century,” they may well ask you, “which one?”
  13. They have avidly joined Harry Potter, Ron, and Hermione as they built their reading skills through all seven volumes.
  14. Phish Food has always been available from Ben and Jerry.
  15. Kyoto has always symbolized inactivity about global climate change.
  16. When they were born, cell phone usage was so expensive that families only used their large phones, usually in cars, for emergencies.
  17. The therapeutic use of marijuana has always been legal in a growing number of American states.
  18. Teachers have always had to insist that term papers employ sources in addition to those found online.
  19. Surgeons have always used “super glue” in the operating room.
  20. Fifteen nations have always been constructing the International Space Station.
  21. The Lion King has always been on Broadway.
  22. CNN has always been available en Español.
  23. Splenda has always been a sweet option in the U.S.
  24. Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have always been members of NATO.
  25. Humans have always had implanted radio frequency ID chips—slightly larger than a grain of rice.
  26. TV has always been in such high definition that they could see the pores of actors and the grimaces of quarterbacks.
  27. Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith have always been Men in Black, not their next-door neighbors.
  28. They had no idea how fortunate they were to enjoy the final four years of Federal budget surpluses.
  29. Vote-by-mail has always been the official way to vote in Oregon.
  30. The proud parents recorded their first steps on camcorders, mounted on their shoulders like bazookas.

This freshman class belongs to a group called Generation Z. If you are interested in learning more about this generation you can check out this interesting infographic.


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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:


Source: Beloit

[Infographic] Gen Z Just Graduated from College! So What Are They Like?

Over the past year two of my students have taught me a lot as they have undertaken thesis work related to generational differences in the workplace. A few of my blogs have addressed this theme in recent months (The Millennial Way and Defining Workplace Generations). Today I am continuing this topic by discussing a generation that has not received as much press as it should. But Gen Z is about to get a lot of attention!

You see, we have just entered the zone where Gen Z’s are graduating from college. Most demographers define this generation as those born between 1995 and 2010 which means that the first wave of this cohort just graduated. You can expect to see many of their applications and resumes in the months ahead. And as we have learned with previous generations, they will bring some changes!

The content below is courtesy of Richard Madison, a marketer at the Brighton School of Business (U.K). It provides some very practical insights about Gen Z. I trust it will help your organization prepare for yet another wave of unique expectations in our increasingly multigenerational work environments.



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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, Gen X’er and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:

Source: Brighton School of Business and Management

The Millennial Way: Beyond Live-to-Work or Work-to-Live

In the classic comedy movie What About Bob, Bill Murray tells his therapist, “There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love Neil Diamond and those who don’t”.

Many of us use this same ‘either/or’ principle to assess the behaviors or others. We label others as creative or concrete thinkers. People like the big picture or are detail oriented. They are individualistic or they are group-oriented. They are wired as introverts or extroverts.

However, these tidy boxes don’t always work and sometimes events come along which shake our thinking. For example, the term ‘ambiverts‘ has recently emerged to create a third category of people who are a mix of introvert/extrovert. As I work with clients and speak to them about their challenges, I often hear the behaviors and expectations of Millennials are breaking many of the ‘either/or’ categories that we like to use.

More specifically, many people are asking me what motivates Millennials in their work. In the past, my ‘either/or’ thinking has answered this question in two ways;

  1. People work-to-live. Work is just something they do and is not highly important. It means that they punch-out at 5:00!
  2. People live-to-work. Those who are oriented this way don’t watch the clock because they are driven to perform. Work is their life.

However, I don’t think Millennials fit into these two categories as cleanly as previous generations have. So I tried to think of some alternate Millennial options….and I didn’t come up with anything! So instead, I have asked three qualified people to answer the following question:

If employees from previous generations tended to fall into these categories – they worked to live or they lived to work – what new category does the majority of Millennials fall into?

Here are their replies:

Paul Sohn: Millennials work to make a difference. An overwhelming reason why Millennials work is simply because they seek to make a difference. The fact that their creative talents can be harnessed for a higher purpose energizes Millennials to wake up every day, knowing that their work matters and that they can make a dent in the universe. The fastest way to disengage a Millennial is simply give them a routine and transaction work that barely uses their talents and passions. On the other hand, the fastest way to engage a Millennial is to paint a lofty picture of a compelling vision and get them to be an integral part of it.

Matt NixonMillennials live to do worthwhile work. We have grown up watching our parents commute to a job they did not enjoy or feel passionate about. We understand that we need to make money, but we are willing to take a lower salary or work more hours if it is for a cause we believe in. While job security and financial peace were our parents’ motives for working (and those are great motives), we are concerned with making the world a better place and will move from job to job until we see this happen.

Jane BoyleLife First, Salary Optional. Millennials do not like to be boxed into any category or much less stereotyped–be it at work or home.  They are loyal to their employer so long as the job suits their needs and ties in with their requirement for flexibility and work-life balance. They want the freedom to focus on meaningful relationships and experiences.  Flexibility means being able to work in a way that suits them best—be it at home, on the beach, or in the coffee shop on the corner.  They prefer not be constrained by when they work (e.g. skipping the traditional 9 to 5 shift in order to break a 40-hour week into segments at different times of the day).  Having greater autonomy over their work schedule (that rewards results over hours worked), generates a diverse and engaging environment, and creates a stimulating atmosphere that offers work-life balance is the key to a Millennial’s heart.

Do these insights align with yours? If not, what would you add?


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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, Gen X’er and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:

With thanks to my guest contributors!

Matt Nixon is a Millennial, Enrollment Professional, MA student and husband. He lives and works in Costa Mesa, CA.

Paul Sohn is a Millennial, author, blogger and MA student. He lives and consults from his base in San Diego, CA.

Jane Boyle is an X’er, recently minted MA graduate and wife who lives in Virginia. She recently completed her thesis on creating organizational opportunities for Millennials.

Defining Workplace Generations: Infographic

A common theme in my work relates to the complexities of leading an inter-generational workforce. We use different terms to describe these collections of unique mindsets and values – the younger generation, Gen Y, Gen X and Boomers to name a few. However, sometimes we sling around these terms without fully understanding who they really apply to. Are Gen Y and Millennials synonyms? What do we call those born before Baby Boomers?

A recent article in The Atlantic revealed that much of the confusion about generations is merited because there aren’t definitive terms. Since generations are simply artificial monikers that we use to describe a similar group of people, there is no legal or official version of what years these so-called generations span (with the exception of Baby Boomers – they are the only official generational category used by the US Census Bureau – source: Bump). In fact, most of the definitions we use find their origins in popular media.

However, I have co-created the following chart as a means to provide some common language around this issue. So here are seven generations and their approximate time spans.

Generations with Suderman

While a lot of talk is still focused on Gen Y and Gen Z, I am personally very interested in the generation which will follow them. “Futurist, demographer, and TEDx speaker Mark McCrindle is leading the campaign to call anyone born after 2010 a part of Generation Alpha. According to him, 2.5 million Alphas are born around the globe every week” (Strebenz). Everyone born since 2010 falls into the Alpha category (as will anyone born until 2030).

Effective organizations learn to harness the collective strengths of all the generations they have in their workforce! Contact me if you would like to discuss how to lead lead an increasingly inter-generational workforce!

In an upcoming post I will discuss more details about how different generations impact our workplace. Subscribe to my blog to stay in the loop!

Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor, consultant and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational Future-Readiness (and he loves great customer service!). He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman. Email:


Bump, Philip (March 25, 2014). Here Is When Each Generation Begins and Ends, According to Facts. The Atlantic on-line.

McCrindle, Mark (March 22, 2016). Gen Z & Gen Alpha Infographic. The McCrindle Blog on-line.

Strebenz, Christina (Dec. 5, 2015). Here’s who comes after Generation Z — and they’ll be the most transformative age group ever. Business Insider on-line.


How Do Leaders Deal With Disappointment?

Prior to some business travels I arranged for three people to help me with some small projects while I was away. As my trip was an extended one, it was helpful to lighten my load by downloading a few tasks. However, upon my return I discovered that none of the tasks had been completed and I had to play catch-up with things I thought had been taken care of.

Does this sound familiar to you? Can you recall the emotions you had to manage as you handle the disappointments of your professional (and personal) life? As a result of this experience, I have been pondering a question which lies at the crux of this story:

How do leaders deal with disappointment?

As I have pondered this question my mind was drawn to some work from a colleague, Dr. Catharyn Baird. She has developed an ethical decision making model which is a helpful way to understand the different approaches that we use to make moral choices. By adapting her framework, I have developed a means by which we can assess our disappointment response styles. Here are the four leadership approaches to disappointment.

Head: This mindset takes a logical approach to disappointment. It deals with the facts, assesses alternatives and then acts on them. The inner voice of this perspective says, “Be logical. Define the problem, determine options, select the best option and deal with it. Don’t focus on the things you cannot change and deal with the things you can.”

Heart: This perspective takes an empathetic approach to disappointment. It may focus on the emotions that this challenge causes you (frustration, anxiety, anger) or it may try to assess the heart of the other person (what is going on in their lives that led to this outcome?). The inner voice of this perspective asks, “How does this make me or the other person feel? What are the issues that caused this disappointment? How can I positively (or negatively) respond in light of these emotions?”

Me: This approach considers how disappointment personally affects you. The inner voice of this perspective asks, “What did I do that caused this? Were my requests unclear or unrealistic? What could I have done differently to achieve my goals? How can I respond in order that this doesn’t happen to me again?”

Them: This approach considers the other person and minimizes your own personal disappointment. The inner voice of this perspective asks, “What are the issues in the other person’s life that caused this? Did they see my requests unclear or unrealistic? What do we need to do to ensure that this doesn’t occur again?”

I believe that leaders must learn to use all four of these perspectives in order to make well-thought out conclusions. Each perspective has questions that are salient and helpful. However, each perspective also carries a bias which naturally excludes consideration of some other useful perspectives.

Disappointed leaders who only focus on themselves (me) are apt to stomp on others. Those who only focus on others (them) they will have a tendency to place the needs of others above their own. The heart approach can focus on feelings instead of action. The action-oriented head approach can be a means to avoid the relational efforts required to work with others.

Effective leaders know themselves, their biases and their blind spots. Your disappointment style is one more way by which to understand your leadership style. Do you know your bias? Which of these four perspectives – head, heart, me or them – do you gravitate to most quickly? Which disappointment perspective do you find the hardest to use?


Jeff SuHead Shotderman is a futurist, professor, consultant and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman. Email:

The content of this article was influenced by the work of Dr. Catharyn Baird and her work on the Ethical Lens Inventory.

Photo Credit – Lithuanian beach via @jlsuderman (Instagram)

The Digital Natives are Eating My Norms!

Eight years ago we bought our first flat-screen television. About a month after this purchase my eight year old boldly told me that we needed another one downstairs. I regressed into classic father-mode and said, “Are you kidding me! When I was your age, I remember getting our first color TV”. He looked at me blankly and asked, “What color was it?”

I’m getting to the age where I’m starting to acknowledge that I’m different. I have children who don’t comprehend black-and-white television. Last night’s 16 year old American Idol performer sang a classic Bryan Adams song that she “had never heard before”. My daughter recently pointed out a nondescript young lady buying a hot dog at an Orange County fair and whispered, “she has over a million subscribers on her You-Tube channel.”

As Bob Dylan was crooned, “the times, they are a changing…”.

Much of this shift is rooted in the rapid technological change we have undergone in the past 30 years. The terms digital natives and digital immigrants are used to describe the mindsets differences such as the ones noted above. Digital natives are the generation of people Digital Immigrant Storyborn during or after the rise of digital technologies Conversely, digital immigrants are people born before the advent of digital technology (DeGraff). I am clearly an immigrant with native children who believe ubiquitous WiFi is a birthright!

As a result of our different histories, digital natives and immigrants have  different cultural norms. The environments they were raised in provide each with a different worldview. At times this causes us to clash. However, we can each benefit by learning from the advantages that each style brings.

Degraff outlines some helpful things that digital natives can teach digital immigrants:

  • To collaborate across boundaries, with a variety of people.
  • To make a place in life for values.
  • To build solutions that are horizontal.

In turn, digital immigrants can teach digital natives:

  • To achieve goals quickly.
  • To use focused resources in building things to scale.
  • To revitalize or repurpose existing institutions.

No matter which side of this spectrum you are on, you need to learn how to deal with others who think differently than you do. I believe that we can respond to these differences with one of the following strategies:

  1. We resist and pretend we don’t need to change.
  2. We duck ask the other person to change.
  3. We change.

Personally, I am a strong advocate of number 3 despite the fact that it means I have to pay attention to things like Nintendo, the Coachella festival and those quirky hipsters.

I recently read an educator who was speaking about the future of on-line learning. He noted, “I can hardly wait until we have on-line classes courses taught by millennials”. He understands that digital natives are going to transform our world in positive ways. Hopefully, both digital natives and immigrants will continue to transform the way we work. Are you willing to change?

Head ShotJeff Suderman is a thought leader and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and their Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman


Chris Mark (Feb. 18, 2015). Design for Millennials.

Jeff DeGraff (June 16, 2014). Digital natives vs. digital immigrants.


Live|Die|Repeat: Thinking Like Gen Y/Z

Sometimes, popular culture provides us with unexpected insights about life. This recently occurred during family movie night when we watched Edge of Tomorrow. This futuristic science fiction thriller was not only an entertaining movie, but it helped me understand aspects of how generations younger than my own think (I’m a Gen X’er).

live die repeat

SPOILER ALERT: Content below will spill movie details!

In the movie, Tom Cruise is unexpectedly caught up in a fight against aliens who have invaded earth. However, the aliens are almost invincible and Tom and his partner find themselves regularly being killed only to wake up the next day to relive the same sequence of events. As a result of what they learn from their recurring identical experiences (like the movie Groundhog Day), they get closer to their goal of killing the mother-alien each day. This is more succinctly summarized by the movie tag-line: LIVE. DIE. REPEAT.


The idea of repeating a task and doing it more successfully a second, third or twentieth time is a fundamental premise of most video games. As a result, ‘do-overs’ are a normal part of life for a generation raised in homes with multiple gaming consoles. Since they think, study, work and live differently, employers need to equip themselves to work with Generation Y & Z employees who enter the workforce with different mindsets. It is critical that we do not label these differences in negative ways. Instead these differences carry both positive and negative components, just like the prevailing set of characteristics that any generation possesses.

At this point in my blog, I typically cite research which supports my insights. However, this weeks research won’t be found in any academic journal or book. Instead, it is based on 38 cumulative years of observations of my three children. As a result of this research, here are a four principles and implications of a Live, Die, Repeat mindset which characterize many who make up Generation Y and Z .

1. Perfection is less important than trying.

The upside: They are willing to fail. Since innovation requires that we try new things, comfort with failure is important!

The downside: They are not perfectionists and often do not expect to get it right the first time. Perfectionist bosses beware!

2. Jumping-in vs. planning ahead is encouraged. Most video games are fast-paced and encourage doing and then thinking (see my recent blog post  Do–>Think or Think–>Do).

The upside: They are people of action.

The downside: Extensive listening is slow death for them.

3. Experimentation is required.How many times did it take to beat the final level of The Legend of Zelda? Many!!

The upside: They are taught to think creatively and try things that may seem illogical.

The downside: The journey may become more important than the destination. 

4. Motivation is intrinsic.Since games teach them to live, die and repeat, the motivation to beat the challenge comes from within.

The upside: They need a deeper reason to do something than “because I said so”.

The downside: Sometimes they simply need to do it “because I said so”.

An important caveat must be included at this point – this generalization is not fully true for every person and every situation. However, the themes of these behaviors are regularly observed in our family.

How does the LIVE, DIE, REPEAT mindset manifest itself in your personal and work lives? What observations would you add?


Family photo cropped.docx

I provide consulting solutions which help organizations achieve their mission. Organizational improvement occurs by developing leaders, fostering organizational alignment and blending strategic planning with foresight. The sample group for this article are proudly displayed in this recent family photo.

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