Our working and social environments are constantly changing. Did you know that in the late 19th century, the patent office had announced that everything that could be invented by then, had been invented? While inventions are still happening, one of the most significant impacts on the technological world is probably disruptive technology. Uber’s thrust into the market in 2011, is a prominent example of disruptive technology where no new technology was developed, but rather ingenious use of existing technologies.
Needless to say, there’s been much hype and focus, in very recent years, as to:
- How digitally-ready we are
- Finding new and improved ways of delivering solutions and
- Our responsiveness to external change.
Change is no longer a periodic planned event, but rather an inherent grain of our lives. Some of the recent, quite significant change events that would not have been perceivable a decade ago, are a mixed-race royal superstar now the duchess of Sussex, a corporate mogul running a 1st world country and even a relaxed dress code and self-managed leave at a leading local investment house.
So, while radical changes in the world are being embraced, my view is that our working environments are slowly shaping in preparing for its future-fit landscape. How has the working environment and even our learning institutions evolved? How ready are they to accommodate current and future generations, specifically about influencing the culture of work/learning environments and non-technical competencies?
Before I get to how ready I think we are, I’d like to explore the opportunities presented in our current and future generational gaps. Chip Conley, in his Ted Talk, speaks about “intergenerational pipelines of wisdom” as referring to the changing physics of wisdom, as multi-directional in its flow. Chip also speaks about knowledge now being viewed as wisdom. Following on from this, Chip’s philosophy presents an interesting shift in thinking, especially in the workplace in that, seasoned1 workers would bring wise eyes and less seasoned workers, fresh eyes to the knowledge pool.
As a ‘fresh eyes’ contributor to the knowledge pool myself, I am fortunate to be working for and working with one of South Africa’s leading software solutions and services company. I am afforded diverse opportunities, which can be interpreted as their appreciation – probably unwittingly – of intergenerational pipelines of wisdom. Our relationship and, ultimately the relationship with our customers, is a multi-directional flow of knowledge and value add.
How ready are working and learning environments to facilitate this concept of wisdom flowing in both directions across multi-generations? According to a 2016 Forbes article, there are 9 guidelines to help organisations facilitate a learning- or influence a sought-after work culture:
- Provide opportunities for learning and development
- Offer work-life balance
- Money is not everything
- Make way for movement
- Be mentors, not bosses
- Create a strong company culture
- Recognise the need for recognition
- Take the good with the bad
- Don’t disconnect the digital narratives
As I unpack 2 of these guidelines, by reflecting on my journey and experiences, I draw a correlation to these guidelines as already entrenched in my company’s values; safe to fail - quick to grow and learn, work-life balance and servant leadership.
Be mentors2, not bosses
The desire to instruct, dictate or impart knowledge more often than not, is a natural go-to for most. I equate the relationship between mentor and mentee3 as a similar relationship between the child and parent figure in that, the child possesses some or all of the parent’s capabilities. The latter is only, however, achieved with persistent guidance by the parent over time. Both actors in this scenario are learning; the child learns to trust the parent figure and the parent figure learns to exercise patience. The correlation in the working environment is similar in that, the mentee, based on a pre-existing recruitment process, has the technical potential of the mentor. The process requires time and commitment by both roles and their learning experiences are similar to that of the child and parent.
Provide opportunities for learning and development
Like in the gaming world scenario, each game level is designed to progressively stretch and challenge the gamer. So too, should the opportunities to grow and learn for individuals (seasoned or not) in the working environment. In the mentor/mentee relationship, the seasoned mentor should exercise introspection to his/her limitations and be bold to acknowledge when the mentee should explore development within another mentor/mentee relationship. So when the gamer reaches the top-level (essentially ‘clocked-the-game’), the gamer moves on to another more or differently skilled gaming challenge. The skills from the initial game are maintained and transferrable to the new and improved game.
What is interesting about Forbes’ guidelines, is that they are not focused on the next big technological buzz or technical learning, but rather on building relationships and transferring wisdom. If we include Chip Conley’s view on wisdom, it’s transferring wisdom multi-directionally, so that we are all continuously adding to our toolbox. Further supporting my view that the future-fit preparation is being made in the right direction, my company has an established academy making their impact with soft skills workshops in its training basket.
In summary, my philosophy about how we prepare ourselves for a rapidly changing environment or economy is to find a purpose that is beyond realizing value or benefits of teaching and learning in the short-term or for oneself. The idea about creating value and ultimately making an impact, is potentially only realized by future generations, may be argued as an altruistic and somewhat idealistic philosophy, but one worth believing in and striving towards. So, does it matter which technical role we currently fulfil in the working environment? Probably not. But what does matter, is a need for a multi-dimension thinking and learning approach that will contribute to a future-fit world, which is adequately prepared for almost any unpredictable and disruptive nature of change. In essence, creating transferrable wisdom that is authentically future-fit regardless of where change takes us, therein creating a paying-it-forward and sustaining learning ethos.
So go forth and teach, mentor or coach, in a way you wish you received it and learn like an inquisitive child, fearlessly and boldly!
1. People who are deemed to have more experience in their particular field of expertise.
2. An experienced or trusted person training/guiding a less-experienced person. Coach & mentor used interchangeably.
3. A person/s being mentored.