Bridging the generation gap

Baby Boomer: “Oh yeah, those young tackers will never achieve anything – they are always on their mobiles and that Tweeter thing.”Gen Y: “Those old farts have no idea what’s going on…”

One of the saddest things that I often see and hear is the generation gap between Gen X/Y and the Baby Boomers. It’s long been my view that the flow of information, knowledge, and above all wisdom across the generation gaps is pivotal to lasting progress.

From the perspective of a Gen X/Y (right on the cusp of the transition between the two) the old adage of “standing on the shoulders of giants” is not just about the famous and the successful. I work on the principle that you can learn something from ANYONE, and it behooves the younger generations to make time to listen and glean the wisdom of experience from those who’ve gone before us. Sure, the world they grew up it looked very different to ours, but the challenges, mistakes made, and lessons learnt are largely the same.

The same thing applies the other way around too. The younger generations are naturally more in touch with the progression of their environment than older generations can be (i.e. you can’t teach an old dog new tricks… while not entirely true, their is truth to it). The boomers still control large chunks of the governance of the world around us – CEO’s, politicians, those generally in power are mostly of a generation that is rapidly falling out of touch with the increasing pace of progress. It’s not a bad thing, just a natural progression – but it pays for them to listen when young people speak.

The most successful organizations I deal with leverage the strengths of both the old (in governance) and the young (in progress and strategy) to stay on top of their game. I personally have the privilege of working with some “old dogs” in the industry who get this principle and share their wisdom freely, while taking on board the “next-gen” contribution I bring to their business.

 I sum it up like this: The young ought to listen to the old for what they’ve seen. The old ought to listen to the young for what they see.