The Kids Are Alright


How many “generational” experts have you heard talking about how different the generations are? While it’s true that each generation has their own idiosyncrasies, couldn’t you say the same about genders, races, and socioeconomic classes?

But what we have learned (or should have learned) about these other groups? By thinking of them specifically by their stereotypical characteristics, we often get a skewed view of that group, and forget to treat them as individuals.

The same thing has happened with all this talk of different generations, and it kind of bugs me. Why spend all this time talking about how we are different? Wouldn’t it be more productive to focus in what we have in common so we can get along better?

This “differences are bad” mentality was punctuated by a comment overheard by fellow passengers on a recent Southwest flight.

If you aren’t familiar with Southwest’s boarding procedure, they don’t assign seats. Instead, they give you a boarding position, and you stand in line (and then board) according to the position assigned. For this flight, I was B15.

Passengers B14 and B19 were already discussing this procedure when I arrived. B14 said, “I thought this system was stupid when it first came out, but it actually works.”

B19 replied, “Yeah, I know some people don’t like it, but I don’t mind.”

“It was probably thought up by some intern“, B14 joked.

Why is this a bad thing? Does he think only well seasoned, experienced executives can make good decisions?  He seems to be indicating that he thinks interns, by default, come up with stupid ideas, further perpetuating the divide between generations.  Well done, B14.

Interns and young employees have some great and innovative ideas, and we need to get out of our own way and listen to what they have to say if we are going to lead our teams and companies into the future. The problem is that often their ideas sound so “out-of-the-box” that someone with too much experience maintaining the status quo could never even fathom it working, so it’s called stupid.

Of course this goes both ways, young people also still need to listen to more experienced employees to learn from what has happened in the past to avoid previous failures or build on successes.

No matter your gender, race, generation or NFL franchise loyalties, one of the things we all have in common is ego. More than any of these other differences, it is our ego that can lead to an unwillingness to admit that someone else might have a good idea.  This is REALLY what gets in the way when it comes to listening to each other and building cooperation.

So check your ego, embrace the fact that other people have good ideas and intentions, and the “differences” these experts keep talking about will become virtually irrelevant.

What is your experience?

Thanks for reading!

Matt

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