Amy Lynch is advisor to 4GenNow, a powerful hub for connecting intergenerational entrepreneurs. Learn more at 4GenNow.com, and attend the summit in Denver this October.
I was in a meeting a few years ago when two Gen Xers said the same thing at the same time. Both instantly yelled “jinx” and started laughing. The Boomers in the room rolled their eyes. The Millennials thought it was cute.
That moment was a window into how similar generations can be. If you and I are from the same generation, I simply get some things you do without even trying. We are likely to react the same way in meetings, love or hate the same marketing campaigns and predict the same economic bubbles and busts. When I jump to a conclusion, you’re already there.
These are all reasons that I probably should NOT, repeat NOT, go into business with you. We’re just too much alike.
look around the table. DOES everybody look like yoU? CHANGE THAT. DIVERSITY IS KEY TO RESILIENCE & INNOVATION.
Avoiding the Think-Alike Trap
Building a business means answering questions, making decisions and solving many problems—and when it comes to solving problems, diversity beats affinity. Diverse teams bring different perspectives and more options to the table. Differences are an advantage.
This makes sense if you think about it. A group of experts in the same field, no matter how brilliant, are sure to approach problems the same way and to share the same blind spots. Likewise, a group made up exclusively of Boomers, exclusively of Gen Z or of Millennials are sure to use similar frameworks and similar technology to attack a problem.
ANGEL AND venture INVESTORS look for multi-generational FOUNDERS. Diverse teams win more often.
Examples abound. Consider Chemoxy, one of the most successful bespoke chemical companies in the world. Look at their site, and you immediately see images of chemists of various ages—young and old beside each other. Commercial Director, Paula Tickler says that’s no accident. In the labs at Chemoxy, senior scientists with decades of experience teach and collaborate with undergraduates who bring a fresh perspective.
Innovation is incubated when you have the right combination of experience, enthusiasm and curiosity. intergenerational teams are the perfect way to foster that mix.
Then there’s Studio Something, the design agency that brought the world Red Bull, among other brands. Two Baby Boomers, Pete Burns and Mykay Kamra, founded the firm, but most of the staff are hipster Millennials who have been coding since they were teens. Then there’s Ian Smith. Former managing director of Oracle in the UK, Smith is 70, and says Kamara, “He really energizes the team. He enjoys working with young people and they learn a lot from him."
Finally, there’s Emma, a scrappy email marketing company based in Nashville that, despite competition from larger, established companies, bootstrapped itself to considerable market share by consistently out-innovating competitors. Founder Clint Smith says, “We live in a fast-paced space. You have to constantly be rethinking your approach to everything. You can’t sit still with any of it.” To that end, Emma is on a monthly cadence, releasing a meaningful enhancement to the product offering every 30 days. “If there’s something our customers want from us, and we don’t quite have it, it won’t be long before we do,” says Smith.
He smiles as he describes the relationship between the company’s highly innovative Millennials who "generate ideas clear to the moon” and Emma’s Gen X founders who “tie those ideas to earth.”
In each of these standout companies, the principals credit generational diversity with their success. Need innovation and reslilience? Build in a motley group!