Great innovations. They always come to people when they are in their 20s. The brilliant wunderkind. No wait, some of those society-changing innovations came to people in their 40s. The mastermind. Oh, and some big-system changes came to people in their 60s. The philosopher-king. Then there were those great innovators in their 80s. The synthesizer. So, which is the greater generation? Maybe all of them, each with a different kind of contribution to make. Maybe it is a difference in kind of contribution, more than a difference in degree of contribution. It is not that one generation makes more or better innovations, rather that they make different kinds of innovations.
In the recommended book above, hotelier Chip Conley shares his experience in shifting from being the wunderkind-to-mastermind at his own successful company to being an elder philosopher-king at Airbnb. He highlights what the younger generation brings that he does not, what he brings that the younger folks do not, and how those can meld together into superior value-creating innovation, an intergen approach.
From an ecosynomic perspective, the political question of who decides comes to the front for consideration. As I explored in a previous post, each generation might have something unique to contribute to innovation. From this perspective, each generation tends to access and work with power differently. Each form of power is critical to the power of the whole.
- Power sensors, typically in the beginning of their careers, have direct experience in direct-contact, functional areas. They are uniquely aware of how to see what is happening now and on the periphery of a social system.
- Power brokers, typically 1-2 decades into their careers, have direct experience in managing functional areas and relating with other areas. They are uniquely aware of how to relate across different perspectives and goals.
- Power holders, typically in the last 15 years of their employment career, have direct experience in designing and enforcing inter-functional structures. From this perspective, they are uniquely aware of how to coordinate multiple, differing perspectives towards shared goals.
- Power formers, typically in retirement, have direct experience in taking an advisory overview of the whole, uniquely aware of how to manifest specific outcomes within complex dynamics, across multiple incentives and over time.
Ecosynomic research suggests that each generation potentially brings something unique and critical to decision making in deep collaboration. And, that is not how people in any generation today typically see people from other generations. They could. It is a choice.
Chip Conley shows how to start an “intergen” practice. I recommended reading his book.