In every organization worldwide, there is an unspoken war between the young and the old. The younger workers look at the older ones and think, “They just don’t get it!” And the older workers look at the younger ones and think, “They just don’t get it!” Interestingly, they’re both right.
In reality, the young and the old are the perfect complementary match. When what each group brings to the table is combined, they can create positive results, competitive advantage, and a profitable future.
The key is knowing the strengths of each group. For example, those in the older generation have wisdom, years of experience, and unique knowledge that’s been acquired over time. And let’s face it…a young person can’t take a seminar on wisdom and walk away with much. It takes time to accumulate knowledge and bring that to the higher level of wisdom.
At the same time, though, the older workers don’t think about and use technology in the same way young people do and typically don’t have a good understanding of new and emerging technology. For example, I understand emerging technology very well and have been using computers for many decades, yet no matter how hard I try, I don’t think like a 20-year-old. So in 2009 when I launched a new company that was developing apps for smart phones, tablets, and smart televisions, I took my experience, knowledge, and wisdom and coupled it with 20-year-olds who had an open mind and who knew the latest technology. Together, we created a number of innovative apps. Within the first week, our first product was the 17th most downloaded app in Apple’s app store.
How were we able to do accomplish this? Because there was no war between the young and the old.
Younger people use and think about technology in a way that the older generation does not. And that’s extremely valuable.
But the younger generation is also are missing something—experience. That’s why the two generations need to work together and learn from each other.
Of course, each generation can turn their weaknesses into positive attributes. For example, if I were a young person applying for a job, and the hiring manager was older, I’d say something like: “I realize I don’t have any experience in this business, and that’s exactly why you need me—because I have an open mind, and I understand and use technology in a different way than you do. I will be able to think of creative ideas and solutions in new ways because I don’t have the legacy of the business in my way. But I do respect working with people who have been in the business for a long time, who have experience, so that together we can create new solutions and uncover hidden opportunities.”
In that same way, if you’re an older person looking for work, you have to address what you have and don’t have. What you don’t have is a working knowledge of how to use all the newest technology, and you don’t think like a young person. However, you are open-minded and willing to learn, and you have experience, industry knowledge, and wisdom. That’s why you’ve been around all these years in your industry. So you could say, “I’m looking forward to working here with the younger people, because I think together we can solve problems faster and uncover more hidden opportunities together.”
One way to end the war between the young and the old is to try the following powerful strategy. The next time you have a high-level meeting where you’re determining the strategic direction of a product, service, or even your company, make sure the people in attendance are a mix of older and younger employees. Typically strategic meetings are filled with Baby Boomers. If you bring some younger workers into that meeting to get their perspective, it will show that you are interested in their opinion and that you value their thinking. Plus, you’ll get some fresh ideas that you may never have thought of.
In order to get better, we have to learn from each other. So let’s end the war between the young and the old now. Let’s work together in new and powerful ways and take our organizations into a thriving future together.