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  • It was my third day on the job at a hot Silicon Valley start-up

  • in early 2013.

  • I was twice the age of the dozen engineers in the room.

  • I'd been brought in to the company

  • because I was a seasoned expert in my field,

  • but in this particular room,

  • I felt like a newbie amongst the tech geniuses.

  • I was listening to them talk

  • and thinking that the best thing I could do was be invisible.

  • And then suddenly, the 25-year-old wizard leading the meeting stared at me

  • and asked, "If you shipped a feature and no one used it,

  • did it really ship?"

  • (Laughter)

  • "Ship a feature"?

  • In that moment, Chip knew he was in deep ship.

  • (Laughter)

  • I had no idea what he was talking about.

  • I just sat there awkwardly,

  • and mercifully, he moved on to someone else.

  • I slid down in my chair,

  • and I couldn't wait for that meeting to end.

  • That was my introduction to Airbnb.

  • I was asked and invited by the three millennial cofounders

  • to join their company

  • to help them take their fast-growing tech start-up

  • and turn it into a global hospitality brand,

  • as well as to be the in-house mentor for CEO Brian Chesky.

  • Now, I'd spent from age 26 to 52 being a boutique hotel entrepreneur,

  • and so I guess I'd learned a few things along the way

  • and accumulated some hospitality knowledge.

  • But after my first week,

  • I realized that the brave new home-sharing world

  • didn't need much of my old-school bricks-and-mortar hotel insights.

  • A stark reality rocked me:

  • What do I have to offer?

  • I'd never been in a tech company before.

  • Five and a half years ago, I had never heard of the "sharing economy,"

  • nor did I have an Uber or Lyft app on my phone.

  • This was not my natural habitat.

  • So, I decided at that moment that I could either run for the hills,

  • or cast judgment on these young geniuses,

  • or instead, turn the judgment into curiosity

  • and actually see if I could match my wise eyes with their fresh eyes.

  • I fancied myself a modern Margaret Mead amongst the millennials,

  • and I quickly learned that I had as much to offer them

  • as they did to me.

  • The more I've seen and learned about our respective generations,

  • the more I realize that we often don't trust each other enough

  • to actually share our respective wisdom.

  • We may share a border,

  • but we don't necessarily trust each other enough

  • to share that respective wisdom.

  • I believe, looking at the modern workplace,

  • that the trade agreement of our time

  • is opening up these intergenerational pipelines of wisdom

  • so that we can all learn from each other.

  • Almost 40 percent of us in the United States

  • have a boss that's younger than us,

  • and that number is growing quickly.

  • Power is cascading to the young like never before

  • because of our increasing reliance on DQ:

  • digital intelligence.

  • We're seeing young founders of companies in their early 20s

  • scale them up to global giants by the time they get to 30,

  • and yet, we expect these young digital leaders

  • to somehow miraculously embody the relationship wisdoms

  • we older workers have had decades to learn.

  • It's hard to microwave your emotional intelligence.

  • There's ample evidence that gender- and ethnically diverse companies

  • are more effective.

  • But what about age?

  • This is a very important question, because for the first time ever,

  • we have five generations in the workplace at the same time, unintentionally.

  • Maybe it's time we got a little more intentional

  • about how we work collectively.

  • There have been a number of European studies

  • that have shown that age-diverse teams are more effective and successful.

  • So why is that only eight percent of the companies

  • that have a diversity and inclusion program

  • have actually expanded that strategy

  • to include age as just as important of a demographic as gender or race?

  • Maybe they didn't get the memo:

  • the world is getting older!

  • One of the paradoxes of our time

  • is that baby boomers are more vibrant and healthy longer into life,

  • we're actually working later into life,

  • and yet we're feeling less and less relevant.

  • Some of us feel like a carton of milk -- an old carton of milk --

  • with an expiration date stamped on our wrinkled foreheads.

  • For many of us in midlife, this isn't just a feeling,

  • it is a harsh reality, when we suddenly lose our job and the phone stops ringing.

  • For many of us, justifiably, we worry that people see our experience

  • as a liability, not an asset.

  • You've heard of the old phrase -- or maybe the relatively new phrase --

  • "Sixty is the new forty, physically."

  • Right?

  • When it comes to power in the workplace today,

  • 30 is the new 50.

  • All right, well, this is all pretty exciting, right?

  • (Laughter)

  • Truthfully, power is moving 10 years younger.

  • We're all going to live 10 years longer.

  • Do the math.

  • Society has created a new 20-year irrelevancy gap.

  • Midlife used to be 45 to 65,

  • but I would suggest it now stretches into a midlife marathon 40 years long,

  • from 35 to 75.

  • But wait -- there is a bright spot.

  • Why is it that we actually get smarter and wiser about our humanity as we age?

  • Our physical peak may be our 20s,

  • our financial and salary peak may be age 50,

  • but our emotional peak is in midlife and beyond,

  • because we have developed pattern recognition about ourselves and others.

  • So how can we get companies to tap into that wisdom

  • of the midlife folks,

  • just as they nurture their digital young geniuses as well?

  • The most successful companies today and in the future

  • will actually learn how to create a powerful alchemy of the two.

  • Here's how the alchemy worked for me at Airbnb:

  • I was assigned a young, smart partner,

  • who helped me develop a hospitality department.

  • Early on, Laura Hughes could see that I was a little lost in this habitat,

  • so she often sat right next to me in meetings

  • so she could be my tech translator,

  • and I could write her notes and she could tell me, "That's what that means."

  • Laura was 27 years old,

  • she'd worked for Google for four years

  • and then for a year and a half at Airbnb when I met her.

  • Like many of her millennial cohorts,

  • she had actually grown into a managerial role

  • before she'd gotten any formal leadership training.

  • I don't care if you're in the B-to-B world,

  • the B-to-C world, the C-to-C world or the A-to-Z world,

  • business is fundamentally H-to-H:

  • human to human.

  • And yet, Laura's approach to leadership

  • was really formed in the technocratic world,

  • and it was purely metric driven.

  • One of the things she said to me in the first few months was,

  • "I love the fact that your approach to leadership

  • is to create a compelling vision that becomes a North Star for us."

  • Now, my fact knowledge,

  • as in, how many rooms a maid cleans in an eight-hour shift,

  • might not be all that important in a home-sharing world.

  • My process knowledge of "How do you get things done?"

  • based upon understanding the underlying motivations of everybody in the room,

  • was incredibly valuable,

  • in a company where most people didn't have a lot of organizational experience.

  • As I spent more time at Airbnb,

  • I realized it's possible a new kind of elder was emerging

  • in the workplace.

  • Not the elder of the past, who actually was regarded with reverence.

  • No, what is striking about the modern elder is their relevance,

  • their ability to use timeless wisdom and apply it to modern-day problems.

  • Maybe it's time we actually valued wisdom as much as we do disruption.

  • And maybe it's time -- not just maybe, it is time --

  • for us to definitely reclaim the word "elder"

  • and give it a modern twist.

  • The modern elder is as much an intern as they are a mentor,

  • because they realize, in a world that is changing so quickly,

  • their beginners' mind and their catalytic curiosity is a life-affirming elixir,

  • not just for themselves but for everyone around them.

  • Intergenerational improv has been known in music and the arts:

  • think Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga

  • or Wynton Marsalis and the Young Stars of Jazz.

  • This kind of riffing in the business world is often called "mutual mentorship":

  • millennial DQ for Gen X and boomer EQ.

  • I got to experience that kind of intergenerational reciprocity with Laura

  • and our stellar data science team

  • when we were actually remaking and evolving

  • the Airbnb peer-to-peer review system,

  • using Laura's analytical mind and my human-centered intuition.

  • With that perfect alchemy of algorithm and people wisdom,

  • we were able to create and instantaneous feedback loop

  • that helped our hosts better understand the needs of our guests.

  • High tech meets high touch.

  • At Airbnb, I also learned as a modern elder

  • that my role was to intern publicly and mentor privately.

  • Search engines are brilliant at giving you an answer,

  • but a wise, sage guide can offer you just the right question.

  • Google does not understand, at least not yet,

  • nuance like a finely attuned human heart and mind.

  • Over time,

  • to my surprise,

  • dozens and dozens of young employees at Airbnb sought me out

  • for private mentoring sessions.

  • But in reality, we were often just mentoring each other.

  • In sum, CEO Brian Chesky brought me in for my industry knowledge,

  • but what I really offered was my well-earned wisdom.

  • Maybe it's time we retire the term "knowledge worker"

  • and replaced it with "wisdom worker."

  • We have five generations in the workplace today,

  • and we can operate like separate isolationist countries,

  • or we can actually start to find a way to bridge these generational borders.

  • And it's time for us to actually look at how to change up the physics of wisdom

  • so it actually flows in both directions,

  • from old to young and from young to old.

  • How can you apply this in your own life?

  • Personally, who can you reach out to

  • to create a mutual mentorship relationship?

  • And organizationally, how can you create the conditions

  • to foster an intergenerational flow of wisdom?

  • This is the new sharing economy.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

It was my third day on the job at a hot Silicon Valley start-up

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【TED】Chip Conley: What baby boomers can learn from millennials at work -- and vice versa (What baby boomers can learn from millennials at work -- and vice versa | Chip Conley)

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    林宜悉 posted on 2018/11/01
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