7 ways the different generations could be utilizing each other better

We know that “diversity is an asset”, but do we really know how to utilize this asset to its full potential? In what other ways do you see older and younger generations working together?

Whether it's with your own children or parents, older or younger co-workers, supervisors or subordinates, or the stories that appear on your various newsfeeds every day, it is no doubt that you've had differing opinions (to put it mildly) to people who come from another generation.

While usually these differences are the source of conflict or misunderstanding, today we want to focus on how they can be a valuable resource. We think that the generations are actually underutilizing each other.

Younger generations have something to learn from the older generations, and older generations have something to learn from the younger ones, as we all know. But why does the collaboration have to stop at sharing knowledge?

Here are 7 ways in which different generations could be utilizing each other better:

#1. Providing more universally applicable experiences to customers

Knowing that every subgroup of people has their own understanding of the world, with differing lifestyles and tools to help them in their lives, we can safely assume that in general, younger people occupy themselves with different activities than older people. They would also be buying different products, and using different services, to meet different objectives.

As people are naturally good at understanding other people who are similar to themselves, you can use the generational gap to your advantage and get millennials in your company to work together with Baby Boomers and Gen X when it comes to UX. Why not make your product or service user friendly for a wider audience?

#2. Rebranding "outdated" into "classic"

Younger people have this weird perception that when something is "old", it's "lame". However, the second you say something is "vintage" or "classic", the object will attract hipsters and self-proclaimed cool kids like a drop of honey attracts ants.

Your product could have been popular back in the 80s, and it might even be relevant now, but because of the perception that it's "old" and "outdated", it does not attract a younger crowd.

Ask your kids what would make your product "cool" - we guarantee you, they have some ideas (we don't guarantee that you'll like their ideas though). Seriously though, with your knowledge and love for the product, and with their understanding of what's hot and trending, you can transform the image of your product and attract younger customers too.

#3. Finding the balance between "being optimistic and open-minded", and "staying grounded and realistic"

Let's lay it out on the table. Young, inexperienced people usually have 1001 ideas for how to do something, and 1000 of them are not practical due to time restrictions, too expensive, or physically impossible. Mature, seasoned people often have a fewer, they talk about each other's ideas and find every single thing that could go wrong, ending up with no viable plan.

In the first scenario, there will be a lot of trial and error. In the second one, there will be a lot of meetings and idle time. Either way, it takes a lot of time and frustration to actually get a plan in motion.

Let's merge the two scenarios: what if you could generate many ideas and then actually choose the most viable one to implement, in a reasonable time? With cross-generational collaboration, you can. You just need to create an environment where creativity is encouraged in a realistic way.

Whether you are planning a new product launch or a family holiday, you can stay grounded and open-minded simultaneously, as long as you have the right people in the room.

#4. Analysing trends and interpreting information

The same information could mean one thing to one person and a completely different thing to another. But the interpretations are meaningless unless they are shared and utilized for something.

As a rule-of-thumb, the more opinions you collect regarding data, the more holistic the analysis will be. So why not use the resources you have around you?

If you have a more conservative point of view, tap into the more "out-there" perspective of the younger people around you, and if you are a young person who is stuck in the millennial way of thinking, let go of your desire to feel like you know everything and seek the opinion of someone with more life experience.

#5. Brainstorming for new ideas and strategies

This one is quite self-explanatory. The main thing to remember is to listen to understand, not to respond, and respect all opinions.

#6. Handling stress

Something that could be interesting to investigate is what each generation stresses over - at home and at work - and how this stress is typically handled.

While it is easy to dismiss our children's stress over a maths test as juvenile ("3rd grade maths is simple"), it is also easy for them to not understand why we are so worried about an upcoming dinner party with the boss ("parties are fun, daddy!").

However, behind the troubles that come and go as we evolve through life, there are ideologies - ones that we don't yet understand, and ones that we forgot. If you look at the maths test using your 8-year-old's eyes, you would probably be worried too. And if they could see all the reasons why you're stressed about going to this dinner, they would understand.

So what would happen if we learned to step into each other's shoes and help each other handle the stressful situations from a wider perspective?

Explaining to a school child that a maths test is not scary if they have studied enough, and that it will not matter in the bigger scheme of things, is a job every parent has to do at some point in time. As we get used to it, we find better ways to doing it, and it becomes more effective.

What if we were to listen to our 8-year-olds explaining why the dinner party at the boss' house can turn out to be a lot of fun, or a junior marketing employee telling us why that presentation to investors next week isn't a big deal, or the CFO taking the time to patiently illustrate to us that there are benefits for everyone in the new financial policy changes?

If we were to really listen and consider the points of view of generations other than our own, we could actually end up being more calm and lead more peaceful and productive lives.

#7. International communication, networking and business deals

Different cultures have different customs and accepted procedures for pretty much anything. In many Asian cultures, for example, age is closely linked to hierarchy and a demand for respect. So if you were to be making a business deal with a country in Asia, it could be wise to think carefully about which employees will be on the team.

Generally speaking, many business deals fall through because of a lack of trust or understanding between the salespeople or negotiators. This means that who you send to make the deal could potentially make or break the deal.

Similarity to or contrast with the person on the other side of the table could help you connect to them. If you know that your potential partner firm has a young business development manager, try sending someone with similar experience and background, to eliminate any feelings of being inadequate or intimidated, and so that a partnership can be built effectively.

Or, let's say that you go into a meeting with a younger associate, and not only skillfully and respectfully communicate with the other party, but impress them with how great of a team you two make. The potential partner is more likely to respect your company, because of your ability to respect each other and operate as a single unit, despite age differences.

So, here we are. That's just 7 simple ways that we can utilize the differences between generations.

We know that "diversity is an asset", but do we really know how to utilize this asset to its full potential?

2PS consultants can help your business use your diverse workforce to your advantage. Have you seen our Multigenerational Workforce Management service?