I remember the day when my son said he didn't know who Han Solo was. I was almost offended. How could he not know? The first thing I realized was that I was a bad father. As I raise him it becomes very clear that he thinks differently. How could he not? His experiences are far different from mine. When I was a kid, I was the tv remote for my father,” Put that on channel four,” he would bellow. In my son's world he can control the TV with a phone.
Today, our world is automated and systems are in place that make our world easier in many ways. The older generations tend to hold onto what they did in the past and struggle with new technologies, systems or processes. The younger generations assimilate information at an advanced speed and implement technologies with ease. That said, they sometimes can be hindered by never having to go through the process. This can create a schism that can seem unsurmountable, but its not that either are lacking. They just process differently.
Today the average life span of a “Job,” is four years. The younger generation thinks their “career” is the list of projects they have worked on, or the jobs they have held. The older generation tends to think that a career is a long term job. Each is a valid path and each can teach the other. It's a matter of seeing the equal value and learning from what each does and does not know. The older generation has a value system, and personal techniques that can greatly help the younger generation. The younger generation has a different set of values, all the modern technologies, and also understand how the information is digested by the market.
My son didn't know Han Solo, but when I bought a new car with a keyless fob, he showed me how to use it (he was twelve at the time). When I speak to organizations that are struggling with generational differences, I often tell the story of the time I directed “Hamlet” at a local theater. I was told that The theater's audience don't come out for Shakespeare plays and that the calendar slot I was in was always the lowest attended. Faced with this situation the older generation would place more ads and try to get the word out. Instead of doing the outdated tradition marketing, I brought a camera to all the rehearsals and posted Rehearsal pictures with a link to the show on Facebook. Then I tagged all the cast members in the pictures. What was the result? Standing room only at all the performances. Hard work and values combined with a skill set that includes modern delivery methods and technologies, make the ideal team member.
Generational differences are overcome by first respecting each other. If I did not accept the help of my twelve year old, I would be standing outside of my new car frustrated that I couldn't get in. As his Father I respect him and often ask him to help me. I grow from his experience and he grows from mine.
The biggest hindrance to working across generations is ego. Let go of the ego and things get much easier. Every generation wants respect. If you can get the team respecting each other first, then the rest falls easily into place.