Create a shared community reference — like the Beloit College Mindset List®

Every year during late August and early September, colleges and universities around the United States welcome a new crop of students into the special community that resides on each campus. Like learning the secret handshake, it can take a while for these young adults to get acclimated to their new surroundings and the new expectations for behavior, performance, and culture. The same might be said of faculty and staff members at these institutions — each year, the references they use to make a point in class or in campus activities may not mean as much (or anything at all) to students who don’t share the common experiences.

As a humorous way to nudge faculty colleagues into updating their cultural framework, Tom McBride, Professor of English, and Ron Nief, Director Emeritus of Public Affairs at Beloit College (WI) created the Beloit College Mindset List®. Since its initial release in 1998 — for the graduating class of 2002 — the list has become a must-have resource for everyone from Brian Williams at NBC News to your next-door neighbor.

This year’s list — for the class of 2015 — is now available at the Beloit College Mindset List® website. It has a Facebook page and a special website where you can add your own “Mindset Moment,” discover information about “America’s Generation Y (1991-2009),” take a daily quiz, and check out the “Movie of the Month” list for on-screen examples of conflict “between young and old.”

In 2011, McBride and Nief collected many of their Mindset lists and observations in a newly published book, The Mindset Lists of American History: From Typewriters to Text Messages, What Ten Generations of Americans Think is Normal, which is being tested in the history curriculum of secondary schools and may be expanded for use at the post-secondary level. The book is available from publisher John Wiley & Sons, and, of course, from Amazon.

Mindsets aren’t just for colleges and universities. Every business, organization, group, or whatever has one or more, just as every institution includes members of multiple generations. The culture you grew up in is not the same as that of the person who differs in age from you by five, ten, fifteen, twenty, or more years. Regardless, we all need to appreciate the diversity offered by the people who work with us and learn to value what this range of experiences creates for us individually and collectively.

How can you identify and take advantage of the existing mindset(s) within your organization? How can you hotwire your community to help it evolve? How can you keep your mindset fresh each year to include newbies and veterans alike? How can mindset awareness help you communicate better?

©2011 Jill J. Jensen/Clarity from Chaos