The Final Word with Andy Swann

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The true benefit of the presence of different generations in and around the workplace is diversity, BDG’s Andy Swann tells us in the first of his ‘residency spots’.

Alternative perspectives are where creativity comes from – and what better way to stimulate them than by bringing together people who have completely different understandings of the world they inhabit.

The word millennial has become over-used and very easy to stereotype as, in many cases, a set of behaviours. It’s not always helpful, particularly with the abundance of articles on why your company should hire millennials and a general assumption that this new fickle generation holds all the answers. They don’t – any more than the generation before them, or the one that’s already hitting the workplace in their wake. Generation Z, the post-millennials, are coming.

The flow of people into the workplace, or culture, or politics – wherever they contribute – is essential for progress. Younger people who haven’t known an analogue world are able to combine with older colleagues and peers to balance their experience with a youthful outlook. The wider the diversity of age groups, the greater the balance and the larger the chance of ideas sparking through cross-perspectives.

“The most exciting ideas all have influences, drawn from what went before. Without The Beatles there would have been no Oasis.”

At Clerkenwell Design Week this is wholly evident. All in one place, the most experienced people in the workplace and furniture industries rub shoulders with inquisitive students, providing inspiration to the next wave of talent – who are just learning their trade. In turn, they will enter the industry, bringing with them a freshness and abundance of new ideas and approaches that create momentum. Generational diversity is what creates success and it’s great for cultural development that multiple generations can live and work side by side, rather than come in, plateau then retire. People with their diversity – whether generational or otherwise – spark from each other. When they connect, things happen.

It’s this positive friction that creates real value for us all. Whether inside a workplace, in and around an industry, or in society as a whole, the diverse interaction of diverse people is what shapes our cultural future. The most exciting ideas all have influences, drawn from what went before. Without The Beatles there would have been no Oasis. The entire Britpop scene of the mid-90’s was driven by a new generation plugging into the last generation’s attitude and making it their own, in their own way.

Many still see that time as the last great mainstream cultural movement Britain has seen. If we’re to get another, we need the next generation and the one after to step up, but we need them to have access to the context of what went before. Out of context, nothing makes sense after all.

Experience equates to insight and that acts as a platform for creative progress. So maybe it is that the great uprising won’t come in popular culture, but in pockets of creativity, where new ideas are allowed to thrive. By enabling that is how we’ll keep our industry and businesses at the top of their game. When people thrive, organisations thrive too, but we have to let them.

Denying younger generations access to insight blocks progress, just as handing over all responsibility to the inexperienced with nobody on hand to steady the ship creates huge uncertainty. Unless we enable this positive friction to occur, we’ll never benefit from it and in an age where ideas are a premium, we need to do all we can to allow creativity to happen. The best way to do that Is by bringing people together.