Maybe it's about how old you feel

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Why does age matter? Unless you're 20 and looking to belly up to a bar, it doesn't, really. Most intelligent employers will tell you it's ability and experience they value, and it's illegal to discriminate based on age in the hiring process, anyway.
Still, age is like culture or ethnicity: People of a similar age share similar experiences that make them see the world in similar ways. One generation lost its innocence with the assassination of President Kennedy, another with the explosion of the Space Shuttle and the loss of Christa McCauliffe. One generation spent their college downtime betting nickels on bridge games, another with hours spent gripping a video game controller. One generation became disillusioned with the political process during the Watergate scandal, another during the debate over what the definition of "is" is.
You can see how that might give people of different ages different views of what makes the world go 'round.
We tend to hold onto these common touchpoints because they define us and those we grew up with, entered the business world with--maybe lost or made a fortune with. Similarly, we learned to do things one way, they worked for us, and we are loathe to deviate from what has made us successful.
I think that's human nature and it makes it all the more difficult to embrace the change that's necessary to keep pace with a rapidly changing way of doing business, in our industry and in every industry. This is also, I think, what makes it mandatory that we embrace the new ideas offered by the young, talented people who are entering our industry by any number of means--as the next generation in a family-run business, from the IT industry, or fresh out of college in search of a career.
They don't know the "right" way to do things, it's true, and we can hope they're eager to learn. But kids coming out of college today will also never own a VCR, never use a phone book, never have a land-line telephone, and never think twice about viewing video over an IP network.
They will never know anything other than managing their bank accounts through a web browser, managing their health-care policies through a web browser, managing their fantasy baseball teams through a web browser. They will be utterly confused when you tell them you don't know how to manage their access control systems through a web browser, or their video surveillance systems.
They can drive race cars in virtual races with friends on different continents with the push of a button on a video-game console, but they can't give an employee access priveleges to their facility on the other side of town from the convenience of their desk? That's crazy talk.
Both your employees and customers have increasingly grown up in an increasingly digital and IP-connected age where they've been trained to see possibilities as endless.
You can see how that might give them a different view of what makes the world go 'round.