Generational Learning Styles: Impact on Product Design

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from: Longevity Explorers | Saratoga Retirement Community, Palo Alto

Discussion Summary

This is a discussion segment from an Intergenerational Workshop on the topic of ""What needs to be different about design of a product to be used by 85yr olds compared to design of a product designed to be used by 25 yr olds?

Another intriguing discussion at the workshop started with a Post-it opinion suggesting "short attention span" was a characteristic one needed to take into account in designing for 25 yr olds, with the implication this might not matter so much in desiging for 85 yr olds.

The discussion yielded some surprises here too, and we covered things like:

  • "Impatience is just not there anymore";
  • "I'm running out of time. Give it to me NOW".

Rapidly, this discussion segued into a conversation about Learning Styles, which seemed to us to be quite important. It emerged that for these participants, there was a strong view that Learning Styles differed a great deal between the two generations represented here. And that this has profound implications in how you should think about product design — because people will learn how to use a product in very different ways depending on their generation.

Some things we covered included:

  • Who reads directions?
  • Trial and error vs "it just works";
  • "hours learning levels of a game". I just would never do that;
  • tradeoffs: complexity gradually and "when you need it";
  • growing up with iPads makes a difference;
  • "simplicity key";
  • short term memory and learning capacity not the same at 90;
  • NOT "lots and lots" of instructions;

And here is an interesting quote: "the key skills vary between the generations. For us (older adults) what mattered was finding information. For the younger generation, what matters is "cr—p detection".

The discussion finsihed with an interesting thought that closed the loop on the initial "short attention span" comment. Could it be that young people have short attention spans (due to media, iPhones etc), but older adults also have short attention spans due to memory issues?

Not so different after all perhaps?




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Key words: 
Learning styles