Multi-aging Teams

How to balance experience and youth in innovation projects is very important. Sometimes when we talk about “innovation” it seems like a youngsters world, someone that understands new trends, technologies and “coolness” (is the word cool still used??) But this can lead to big mistakes.

In our generations, those between Generation X and Generation Y, being “young” became an important issue, since many workers in the industry were not trained in using computers and technology. This was a plus for us the newcomers. Over time, tech knowledge will not be a differential advantage as it once was since our generations have learned to be aware of tech changes. Right now in my generation we are not afraid of what highschoolers are learning in class, but I am sure some technology will come and at some degree make us obsolete (maybe mainstream DNA handling or something like that). The important thing is that we are now aware of it; we value flexibility, adaptation and fast change and those are skills to prevent us from becoming obsolete, which older generations weren’t used to have.

I remember sitting with a bank’s CEO and other high-ranked managers during one of our consulting presentations. I was about 26 and talking to them about opportunities and reengineering. I guess the group’s average age was about 57. They asked me my age. Some congratulated us, other’s were really skeptic others took skepticism into negativism and even resentment. As consultants we needed to integrate and motivate every person so we could deliver results. I wasn’t sure my age was a pro for energy or a con for being "trustworthy", but the important thing was learning how to cope with the situation and making people believe in your talent and goals. Here are the pointers I learned from myself, other consultants and our clients:

If you are a young company newcomer:

- - Listen to everyone. Use your thirst to LEARN from others. Question their paradigms but never underestimate experience, especially practical experience.

- - Use your most recent skills and knowledge to TEACH not to brag. Earn credit from it but without stepping on others. Be a team player and be always willing to help.

- -- If your innovative intentions are always blocked see if you are communicating effectively, speaking their language.

- - Even disruptive innovations need experienced workers to make them happen.

- - Experience also means connections, never underestimate who can you meet through others. Networking is an important word in our days.

- - Read change management theories and apply them.

- - Don’t be impatient. Growing in a company does take work and time, it is not immediate. We are used to having things in a “click” and impatience can be a flaw.

- - You might be wrong too, new doesn’t always mean better. Keep an auto-critical mind.

- - If being creative means being open to ideas, guess what? old or conventional ideas are ideas too from which you can build upon or bring into new contexts.

If you are an experienced employer:

- - Don’t get too comfortable in your job, keep challenging yourself and never lack energy.

- - Question your paradigms and allow others to question them without taking it personal. We all have paradigms, believing in innovation as a mantra is one too.

- - Don’t always support “newness” just to be perceived as an innovator. If something seems way out of proportion DO give your experienced opinion.

- - Always keep training, not only in your expertise area, but in other areas that can allow you to move horizontally in a structure and bring new topics to your area. Also keep up with tech changes and mind shifts due to them.

- - When feeling threatened by newcomers, remember: “You are as a good leader as leaders you create.” I think new generations, although pretending to be wiki-know-it-alls, they DO need mentors.

The same way we talk about making a multicultural team for a creative environment, we might also talk about a multi-aging teams, after all it means having people with different mind sets. Remember for our generations “experienced” will no longer mean those people who are not tech-savvy or not used to innovating as it once was, totally the opposite. Experience will now mean someone who adapts real quick, has used different high-tech through time with no problem and can absorb and evolve ideas successfully.

What new mind shifts and skills will the next generations develop that will challenge us?

The picture comes form The Official Dilbert Site

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