Generation Gap: Disruptive Thinking Meets Experience

A lot of people are talking about how to understand diverse demographics in the workplace. Most of that conversation revolves around how to get along or how to understand difference generations.

Let’s scrap that talk.

Let’s have a different conversation that actually contributes to business growth, shall we?

It’s not about how you understand generations, or how you get along with them. It’s about leveraging them.

Here at RESET, we believe that different viewpoints are good. Each generation’s different viewpoints help us get a 360-degree viewpoint of business scenarios – and that’s a good thing.

Change the Conversation

We as human beings need to think someone is in charge. That’s just human nature at work.

We have a problem with black-and-white thinking, too.

These things lead to a food-chain mentality in the workplace.

It’s time to change that conversation from “Who’s in charge?” to “How do I contribute?” – and encourage a more fluid approach to business.

When we change that conversation, we start leveraging different viewpoints, and different strengths and weaknesses within our teams.

You know, there really isn’t an age dividing-line. Everybody just knows different stuff. We have different experiences.

Unfortunately, we fall into that generation trap all too easy. We think, “Oh, we’re allowing the Millennials a voice, here.” Or, “We’re allowing Baby Boomers to share their experience.”

No! Just stop. That’s idiotic. It’s paternalistic and nonsensical.

Sure, Millennials have officially surpassed Generation X as the largest group in the U.S. workforce. But let’s leverage each generation’s unique viewpoints for the greater good while getting the whole group moving forward together.

Millennials: Disruptors of the Status Quo

Millennials tend to think more disruptively. They also tend to think they are being patient in a better way than a Baby Boomer is. They ask “why” more often.

Boomers: Experienced With Upheaval

Older generations have seen more economic upheaval over longer periods of time, and understand how challenging upheaval can really be. They have experienced firsthand how black-and-white things can get when a vertical within a marketplace deteriorates.

Together, this disruptive thinking plus this experience with upheaval can generate a better decision.

Better Decisions Stem from Listening to and Leveraging ALL Generations

Better decisions mean faster, more robust, sustainable and profitable growth. It’s lifeboat survival mentality versus the traditional rowboat (let one person be the captain and everyone else rows) mentality.

The common complaint among older people is that younger people haven’t gone through the wars – they don’t have the perspective. You can so easily flip that on its head and change it to younger generations haven’t been traumatized yet and are still fresh with ideas and untainted insight.

The common complaint among younger people is that older people are stuck. Look at it a little differently, though, and you’ll see that they’re afraid. They’ve seen what a bad decision can do to an organization.

We all need to turn on our emotional intelligence.

Let’s face it. The first 2-3 responses out of everyone’s mouths aren’t worth listening to. They’re knee-jerk responses. Older team members may react from fear. Younger team members may react without understanding the bigger picture or thinking through or the reality of the situation.

Instead of responding to those initial knee-jerk reactions, though, you can learn how to wait through them. That way your team members don’t just shut down because they perceive their opinion or perspective is not valued.

The Bottom Line

To effectively facilitate better decision-making, first understand that every team member has a different perspective – and those differences are good. Then, realize that people are going to be verbally clumsy and emotionally hesitant, and that they’re going to be scared to tell you how they really think.

It’s your job as a leader to wait through the knee-jerk reactions and then pull those real opinions out. No one wants to look stupid. You must protect your team members’ dignity and not let them hide behind perfectly normal responses. Only then can the deeper, more valuable perspectives be laid out on the table and considered in order to make the best decision possible.


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