Monday, May 19, 2008

Look for Commonality Between Generations Not Differences

Since returning from the APQC KM Edge Conference in Chicago, I've been thinking about one of the themes that came out of some of the keynotes / presentations - differences between the "boomer" / older generations and the "younger generations" - such as millennials' ability to time-slice, their ease with technology, and focus on development rather than long relationships with a single employer. (60 Minutes had a provocative article titled on this titled The "Millennials" Are Coming)

There is no shortage of emerging research and commentary about differences between generations, and the challenges that could result. But, why not focus on the similarities?

Time to reflect seems to figure prominently in the learning process, whether the reflection is conscious or unconscious, conducted alone or in a group setting. The need for reflection would seem to be one thing that is important for all generations. Though we may do it in a few different ways, we all need time to need to let new ideas "soak in", absorb them and blend them with what we already know, and eventually act on them. Or in the case of a practical skill, we need time to practice to improve competence.

(By the way, Bob Wendover from the Center of Genrational Studies recently blogged about Generation Y: Do They Know the Value of Reflection? He also delivered a great keynote presentation at the APQC KM Edge Conference titled From OJT to DVD: Knowledge Management and the Emerging Generations.)

Finding time to reflect and learn in the corporate world, which we are all challenged with in today's constantly changing world, could be common ground for cross-generational work.


Anonymous said...

Dale, great to meet you in person at the APQC event! I highly recommend Jennifer Deal's book titled "Retiring the Generation Gap". After years of research, in the book she concludes that we all have the same needs, wants, desires (although in a slightly different priority rank) - we just express them differently. The key is in knowing how to communicate with people... John Hovell

Lyn said...

I couldn't agree more Dale. As a high school teacher, I received training ad-nauseum on how different today's kids are from 20 years ago. I say, SO WHAT?!?! In most discussions I have heard on the topic, it seems we are eager to write off the challenges of communication between the incoming workforce and the outgoing workforce as a generation gap. I think this is a cop out, and an effort to rationalize plain rudeness in some cases. Certainly we have to approach every new person we encounter with a certain amount of understanding and openess to differences in perspective. SO WHAT makes younger people so different say, from Europeans, or Amish? Maybe the only difference is that we don't encounter them in the workplace as often. Get ready workplace, the WWW is bringing us closer and closer every day!

Anonymous said...

Thanks John.. I'll definitely check the book out..

And thank you for your comments Lyn.. couldn't agree more.

A brief story.. I worked in a creative e-learning company in the late 90's where the average age was about 23. I at the time was .. gulp.. 40 .. What made this group different was their willingness to think outside the box, learn through trial and error and make "good mistakes," be highly creative and bounce off either's ideas and work.."be" with tons of energy, and ultimately do good work and have tons of fun.

Since then, when I think of the 20-somethings I've worked with in other companies since then, I've continued to see consistent similarities.

What a wonderful opportunity for organizational, and peraonal renewal.