Below is the full text of a column I wrote in the July 2012 issue of Minnesota Business Magazine advocating business focus on integrating generational gaps rather then bridging them to spur innovation.
How integrating the generation gap is better for business then trying to bridge it
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
As the 25-year-old Director of Marketing at Four51, a Minneapolis software company, I assure you there is no bridging the generation gap here, rather integration. At Four51, leaders from the Boomers generation to the X-Y-Zers sit shoulder-to-shoulder making decisions and developing strategy, generating business growth.
Since 1999 Four51 has built software that disrupts the status quo in everything from commerce and order management to our latest innovation, FanTools. FanTools allows businesses to rethink the way they approach social media and mobile marketing. Two big generations, smashed together, not bridged, creating innovative products here in the Land of 10,000 lakes is a win-win-win.
A startup with a safety net. Ideas are a dime a dozen. I’ve been having them since I started my career in marketing communications 11 years ago. But not until I earned a leadership position at Four51 did I get the benefit of having the counsel of established businesspeople to provide perspective that can only come with age, no matter how talented or experienced a young person may be. A perspective that is crucial to sustainable and scalable ideas.
Boundless energy. My older colleagues remind me often that the heap of energy brought into the company by younger generations is truly invigorating. That energy should be welcomed to fire up a company to create insanely great products and experiences.
Think differently. When generations are involved and not bridged companies are flushed with diverse ideas that generate incredible innovations. Facebook was an idea from a 20-something that with a little business savvy from an older generation will be one of the most talked about IPOs in a long while.
Enough bridging, start involving
Younger generations don’t feel entitled. We feel enthusiastic. We have perspectives unique to growing up in a digital age. We learn best when involved. A sentiment from my, we’ll just say older than me, CEO sums it up nicely. “Simply put, things are changing at a faster pace than we can readily interpret. That’s why I NEED to be listening to 20-somethings, they get it where and when I don’t.” – Mark Johnson, CEO, Four51.
Ryan Ruud is the Director of Marketing & Communications at Four51, Inc. in Minneapolis. (Four51.com)