4Gen — Bringing Forth the Best of 4 Generations of Leadership — Recommended Readings

Conley, Chip. Wisdom @ Work: The Making of a Modern Elder. New York: Currency, 2018.

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.

Belonging, as Counted in Generations — What Kind of Generations?

I have observed lots of conversations lately where people talk about who belongs and who does not.  They often talk about how long they have been here, wherever that is, as compared to the tenure of others.  A technical term for this tenure is a generation.

The word generation comes from generate, which means to give birth, from PIE root *gene-,” thus meaning born here.  Born here can mean born here in this time, or born here in this space.  In the context of the physics of space-time, it means born in this space-time, this energy field.

Which energy field (EF)?  To keep things simple, let’s call the physical, material EFA, the biological, living EFB, the social, relational EFC, and the cognitive, mental EFD.

From the EFA perspective of physics, matter is energy [E=mc2], and you are from herenow if your material is from herenow.  Most of the matter in your body is replaced every 7-10 years, more or less.  If you have been somewhere specific, for more than 7-10 years, your physical, material body, the body you inhabit, is indigenous to that place–you are made up of matter from that place.  Indigenous means sprung from the land, from Old Latin indu (prep.) “in, within” + gignere (perfective genui) “to beget, produce.” That makes an EFA generation about 7-10 years long.  How many EFA generations have you been where you are?

From the EFB perspective of biology, life is energy, and the EFB that defines your life energy patterns expresses in your genetics.  Your genes–once again, from PIE root “gene-“–come from your parents, basically.  An EFB generation is the time between when your parents had you and when you had your child, which tends to average about 25 years.  How many EFB generations has your family been here?

From the EFC perspective of social relations, the relational energy defines a generation as belonging or identifying with a specific worldview.  Groupings of peoples by their worldview characterizes generations in 10-20 year blocks, averaging around 14 years.  What EFC generation are you part of?  How many EFC generations have been birthed in your lifetime?

From the EFD perspective of mental cognition, the mental energy that defines a generation as those with the same form of aligning reality, of a way of perceiving reality within a sphere of influence–how long people are influenced by a set of ideas. Humans seem to carry much of what they are taught early on with them for the rest of their lives.  In the distant past, these mental generations might have spanned thousands to hundreds of years.  In the past century, the span of a mental generation is getting shorter and shorter, now lasting less than 10 years.  What was taught as obvious a decade ago is quite different today.  How many EFD generations have been birthed since you were in school?

Me?  I have lived in western Massachusetts for the last 9 years, so most of my material EFA is from here, indigenous to western Massachusetts, just like anyone else who has lived here physically for the past 7-10 years.  My relational EFB has been in the northeast part of the USA since the early-to-mid 1600s, meaning my genetics have been here over 375 years or 15+ generations.  My social EFC is from 1965, which means I was born almost 4 worldview EFCs ago.  My cognitive EFD is at least 5+ generations old.  This all shows that I am from here (EFA), have been of this genetic stock for quite awhile (EFB), and that many new social (EFC) and cognitive (EFD) perspectives have been born since I appeared.  I have been here awhile and much new richness has come along in that time.

So, when someone starts to talk about belonging, and whether they belong more or less than you, you can ask what they mean, from 4 different perspectives on generations of belonging.  EFABCD.  Also, when you think about the richness of your heritage and the richness of indigenous, from-here perspectives leading your communities, you can ask how many of the actual EFAs, EFBs, EFCs, and EFD in your groups are represented in leadership.  The heritage and the richness are there for your enjoyment.  It is your choice whether you engage with it.