Four Turnings of History and Business

April 30, 2024

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Four Turnings of History and Business

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In the 1980’s, Neil Howe and William Strauss set out to write a book on Generations. They began studying the differences between generations and their distinct ideologies and methodologies in a linear fashion. They noticed that each generation (or about every 20-25 years) was marked by what they came to call a “turning,” which signified the coming of age of a new and different generation.

Four Turnings of History

Across four turnings, the pattern was this: High, Awakening, Unraveling, and Crisis.

Thus, each generation was different.

And yet, they were the same, because the pattern repeated with the next four generations, indicating not only a horizontal pattern, but also a vertical thread running through history.

While the multiple generations currently alive on planet Earth today may think and operate differently; Strauss–Howe generational theory proposes that the four generations previous to this were very similar.

And, though it is debated, the patterns they identified back then may, indeed, be repeating through history.

Today, we find ourselves in what they would term, historically, The Fourth Turning.

Four Turnings of Business

In the previous article, we talked about the Four Levels of Business Leadership. They are as follows: Establishment, Experimentation, Expansion, and Escalation.

And, yes, they do parallel the patterns of history observed by Strauss and Howe.

  • Establishing a business comes with the initial excitement and euphoria that accompany the launching of a dream.
  • Experimentation in business harkens back to the 1960s of our era, where we tested the limits of the norms of society and also ended up putting a man on the moon.
  • Expansion in business is a period of growth. This is like the 1980s and 1990s, the era of joint ventures and expansion into international markets.
  • Escalation is like the fourth turning. It is scaling to new levels, yet messy from the expansion of the past phase. And it is ripe with change. This is where many businesses, large and small, find themselves today.

Entrepreneurs of the last 20 years or so have launched into the frontier world of technology. They have ridden the wave through experimentation, of testing products and programs for a budding marketplace. And they have gone through the frenzied phase of growth, with the swelling tide of launch models, and social media marketing and ad campaigns. Some have established a scalable model that is now in escalation stage.

So, we have four “turnings of history” and four “levels of business”, with their inherent similarities and challenges.

How do we manage through the “fourth turnings” of history and business?

For this, we bring in another pattern of “four.” These are the four personality types of the Maxwell DISC program.

These four types of leaders are needed to work together through this phase of history and of business. Working together is key, as it creates the rebalancing that is needed.

  • D – D-wired individuals bring swift, decisive action. They don’t wait for someone else to solve a problem. They don’t allow a problem to escalate beyond control. They take immediate action to gather the team and resources to quickly address issues.
  • I – I-wired individuals bring light and creativity to a fourth turning. They are those who bring ideas and innovation. And they are also those who remind us that people matter.
  • S – S-wired individuals bring order in periods of chaos. They work with teams to keep a sense of calm within the storm. And they help ensure the actions initiated by the D-wired leader are carried through to conclusion.
  • C – C-wired individuals bring reason and civility. They are those who ensure the work is done according to established standards. They are detailed problem solvers. When faced with a challenge, their bold determination will carry the issue through to resolution.

It is always important to work together in your strengths, but it is most important during this phase of history and business.


Action Steps

  1. Assess the strengths of your team.
  2. Assess the needs of your business.
  3. How can you bring the strengths of your team together in order to meet the needs of the business?For valuable resources on Discovering Your Strengths, click here.

Deb Ingino is a highly sought-after executive coach, mentor, consultant, and speaker worldwide. Deb is well versed in business operations and in the importance of asking key questions most business leaders won’t ask themselves. She brings deep experience in leadership development, strategy, high performance team building and effective communication. She has a passion for leading people to discover and maximize their strengths as well as those of fellow team members, while offering advanced strategies to achieve high performance. Deb is the perfect fit if you’re ready to take your leadership and impact to the next level!

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