Sunday, April 25, 2010

Is your innovation getting lost in between generations?

So let me share with you two situations that I have found all too common. Both of them lead to the stifling of innovation . . . but for different reasons.

Situation 1
A young person full of energy has been up most of the night talking with a friend or two. During that conversation an idea was born. Now that this young person has had some sleep and is properly caffeinated, they go into work and share the idea with an older boss/co-worker/mentor/etc. They excitedly share the 5 minute version of the long discussion and then wait for input. Their eye's dull quickly as the other person shares how they tried something like that 10 years ago with no success and how it would no better work today.

Situation 2
An older person and a younger person are in a meeting at church, a non-profit, a business or any other inter-generational setting. The older person throws some input from their experience into the situation with a desire to see the group learn from their experience. The younger people listen politely and then go on with the discussion without seriously considering the other's idea.

This happens all the time. I didn't use actual years because 1) I would immediately get in trouble for what I consider "old" :) and 2) young and old can vary dramatically in the situations I shared above.

The biggest concern I have related to Kingdom Innovation is that both the energy of young innovators and the wisdom of older innovators are being ignored. In the end amazing ideas are thrown out, not improved on or at least discouraged.

It seems silly that this happens. Both generations know the other has a lot to offer. One is seen as the authority and the other is seen as the future leaders. But for many reasons we do not take advantage of the new thinking of one and the wealth of experience in the other. We also can't imagine a world where the older generation might have the new thinking and the younger generation might have more experience.

So I want to bravely offer these tips as you innovate across generations:
1. Look for a mentor and look to mentor another - no matter what age you are!
2. Take every idea seriously and ask God to show you which ones need to be pursued.
3. Hang out with people in different generations and learn . . . always be learning.
4. Study history because we know no idea is truly new.
5. Look to the future because we know that God has new things for us to do each day.

So how will you use the inter-generational environments you find yourself in to be a better Kingdom worker and innovator?


Justin Long said...

A great resource that looks at intergenerational interactions: the books by Strauss & Howe (esp. "Generations," "Fourth Turning" for broad summaries of gen interactions, as well as "Abort, Retry, Fail" about GenX and "Millennials")

Jon and Mindy Hirst said...

Thanks for sharing these resources Justin! I will try to check it out. What key lesson did you learn from these resources?

Justin Long said...

Different generations work/react in very predictable ways that can be generalized across the generation, based on how they were raised by the previous generations. Boomers for example are very interested in principles and values and inspiration (as all Prophets are), while GenX is far more interested in liberty, survival, and honor--the practicalities of life (as all Nomads are). Once you understand the generalizations, it's easy to look at situations and see where individual character is at play and where broader generational themes are.