Collaborating: Is There a Generation Gap?

Within the past few years many books and articles have been written about the generation gap and associated differences in our behavior within organizations.  But when it comes to collaborating and co-creating, do these generational differences really get in the way? 


AchieveGlobal completed comprehensive primary and secondary research on this topic to dig deeper into this question.  They wanted to find out if the generation challenge is truly getting in the way of innovation or if we are developing a distorted picture. They discovered that when it comes to collaboration and co-creation there is a widespread prejudice toward over-generalizing older and younger employees. AchieveGlobal surveyed 350 employees at all levels in China, Germany, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States. All employees at all levels endorsed significant age stereotyping.


Extensive research has been conducted by numerous universities including the University of Western Ontario, Michigan State University, and the University of California. Each study found that media coverage regarding the differences in generations has been exaggerated. The danger here is that younger workers view themselves as being more creative and older workers view themselves as having better work ethics. Younger workers view older workers as more ridged and older workers view younger workers as being more self-centered. The truth of the matter is that we can all benefit from developing a more creative mindset and from being more flexible. In addition, everyone should dedicate effort to developing good teamwork habits and a good, strong work ethic.


The bigger issues at hand stem from our own misconceptions about how we work together. It’s clear that people can co-create and collaborate better if given the training, skills and a proven system to be successful.  At any age we can jump into a thinking soup and come out the other side without any better ideas than those we started with. It is easy to blame our shortcomings on another generation—people have been doing this for years.   


Having a diverse team of workers systematically working on a complex problem using applied creative tools will render better results. The more diverse the group, the more likely people will develop unique, new ways of addressing some of our biggest issues. 


Now, more than ever, we need to find ways to work together and to take advantage of everyone’s skill sets and strengths. If you are working on a multigenerational team and it seems like you’re not achieving at a high level, it would be wise to bring in an outside facilitator to conduct a team development workshop and, as a group, learn how to develop better problem solving and decision making skills. 

The multigenerational workforce is here to stay—your employer expects everyone to know how to collaborate and co-create to keep your company competitive within your industry.  For more information on how to get your organization or team into top working shape, call us today for a free consultation. 


Posted in Innovation by Jacqueline Lloyd Smith on 3/16/2011 12:04:32 AM
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