Is this what it feels like to live a purposeful life?

A few months ago I made a career move. I embarked on a journey to dedicate myself to changing how we see ageing and to help co-create alternative models that are better suited to an age of longevity. I stepped into this full of passion, belief and conviction. I also stepped into the unknown, after all, I am helping to create something new. There is also the sense of missing the "certainty" of a regular income and the seeming security of being part of a bigger organisation.  

Over the past months I have had regular moments of fear and uncertainty. Questioning myself whether what I am doing is in fact valuable and whether I can make it work for myself and others around me. Having recently turned forty, and reflecting on achievements in my life, I found myself questioning my success. Using all the socially constructed images of success and identity, such as a job title, an association with a recognised organisation, possession of assets, etc., I wondered whether I was (am) doing the "right" thing.   

Despite these feelings, I keep going. Keep refining my story, testing it with customers, peers and stakeholders, and embracing their frank feedback. Slowly the conversations have become easier and the intent of my work is becoming clear and relevant to those I speak with. Yet, I'd be lying if I said the moments of fear are no longer there.

Then the other day, I had a realisation that has grounded me. I realised that because I have chosen a purpose driven path, I can no longer rely on the props and constructs that I'd used in the past as evidence of my success.  All I can rely on now is myself to determine my identity and sense of success. I can no longer use external markers because they don't count when you follow your purpose seek disruptive change. 

I have chosen to follow my passion and what I believe is my purpose, because I had to (and wanted to), to be true to myself. The difficulty in the past months, has been realising that judging myself on irrelevant external markers just doesn't work.  What drives me is creating a different future where we talk about, and experience ageing differently.  Doing that and impacting the lives of people as they age will be my markers. 

I believe this is what it feels like to live a purposeful life. It is no longer about titles and assets, but about having faith that I will make a difference. As hard as I find it at times, I wouldn't have it any other way.  

We can co-create new horizons for us all

As the Intergenerational Report has recently brought to our attention, we are on the cusp of new age.

An age, where across the globe, we will live longer than ever before.

 The report provides a solid statistical analysis of the demographics trends of ageing and how this might affect Australia's future economy in terms of skills shortages and productivity. It talks about how we expect there will be fewer people to pay for aged and heath care services for older people, and the efficiency of financial structures such as superannuation.

The trends in the report most definitely show that, if we continue on in the same way, with the same models, we have reason for concern for our future.  

It has been fascinating to read and watch the media coverage on that followed the release of the report.  Some of the coverage is about sharing the statistics, some of it is an analysis of how the financial models need to change, much of the coverage is negative to the point of positioning the generations against each other with headlines such as "We’re getting richer, so why shouldn’t Gen Y subsidise baby boomers?"

While these are legitimate questions I believe the way forward is better served by bringing the generations together, rather than in opposition.

We should be asking ourselves 

"What mental models must we adopt to create alternative alternative futures for an ageing population?'.

"How can young and old work together to co-create the alternative models for employment, finance and housing?"

"How can bridge the gap between the existing paradigm of ageing (which is largely about decay and decline) and adopt a new paradigm that acknowledges longevity and create alternative, equitable models for work, housing, super, health (etc.)?"

The current realities  described in the Intergenerational Report are ones that we have created.

Equally, we can create alternatives. We can create a new horizons that give people choice and agency as they get older.

It is up to us to chose to do so. To test our assumptions and beliefs, and consider what it will take to create the futures we are seeking for young and old alike.

Multi-generational workforces are an untapped source of innovation

I am reposting a blog I wrote for the First5000 network in July last year. There is a still a lot of relevance in the topic and I am keen to hear how people are using the diversity of thinking and experience that sits within their multi-generational workforces as a source for innovation...

9, July, 2014

It's time to put strategies in place to actually harness the innovation potential that sits within the multi-generations in your business. 

A lot has been written about innovation recently. The Financial Review dedicated a whole issue of its June edition of BOSS magazine on innovation.
You may have thought this is a buzzword and a nice to have. But clearly it's not when the Reserve Bank Deputy Governor is talking about it too. 

So why is so much attention being brought to innovation?

In a speech in March Philip Lowe put it very simply: we need to innovate to ensure Australia's future growth and prosperity.

It is interesting to note that when we talk about innovation most people immediately talk about risk mitigation, as though the two are inextricably linked.

Mr Lowe talks about Australia’s focus on risk mitigation and risk control and how we have “been prepared to limit options or to spend more of our scare resources to reduce risk”.  While this has been prudent with events such as the global financial crisis, he questions whether we have the balance right and what this means in light of an ageing, growing and diversifying population.

 The RBA Deputy Governor also suggests that as our population ages, we may find ourselves remaining risk averse. But the good news is he says there are five ways [link] we could avoid this possibility - and now I'd like to suggest a sixth:

            The way we value and enable intergenerational wisdom sharing.

Why is this important? Firstly, we have an ageing population and it won’t be long before we have five generations working side by side. This means there will be increasingly diverse life experiences, attitudes and desires in a work setting. This brings me to my second point. Diversity is a great source of innovation! Having a diverse workforce is not enough though. Companies need to put strategies in place to actually harness the innovation potential.

Lynda Grattan (London Business School) identifies cross-generational mentoring as one way of harnessing the innovation that can come from the creative tension between the generations. For younger people (Gen X and Gen Y) this is about learning from past experience and the wisdom that mature age workers have gathered on their journey, while for baby boomers and traditionalists it can be about learning new technologies, business models and new perspectives on the roles of work and business in people’s lives.  

If you take this approach, you not only support leadership development and organisational learning, you can also use it to harness it to innovate new processes, ideas, services and products.

Organisations can also seek out young entrepreneurs, innovators and game changers externally, as well as gaining the perspective of business elders who have acquired valuable business knowledge and wisdom.

Whatever approach an organisation takes, it starts with a mindset that values diversity and leverages this by connecting the different generations for the purpose of creativity and innovation.