Who are the best innovators? Does a generational trend exist that makes one workplace generation more innovative when compared to another? The fast argument may be that traditionals and baby boomers are stuck in their ways and in an opposing view the millennials or generation 9/11 people are more likely to innovate.
Like most complex subjects, there can be arguments from many different sides. Here are three simple ideas to help break this down:
Willingness to Change. Innovation requires change. The truth about change is that it makes everyone feel a bit uneasy, nervous, and afraid. Propensity for change is typically not a generational issue, it has a whole lot more to do with what a person feels they have to gain or lose, regardless of generational representation.
Restrictive Knowledge. Effective problem solving usually involves approaching problems within a framework. Often we frame situations and problems based on our knowledge. This very act of framing often limits innovation. Many experts would agree the best innovation happens when you let go of knowledge that restricts vision and as some would say, dream big.
Creativity Culture. We often hear about cultures being built through mainstream quality and efficiency ideologies like Six Sigma, LEAN, and Kaizen. These high quality principles (which are effective for their designated purpose) often drive people to reach a standard and once the standard is achieved to never change, never deviate, and to just repeat the process. People who are conditioned to think within these high quality standards may develop a restrictive view of innovation. A creativity culture requires unleashing restrictive thinking.
Keep in mind that in a world of constant change, the riskiest place to be is stuck in the status quo. Innovation, like change, knowledge, and culture are not limited to any specific generation. Innovation occurs when individuals and teams are willing to let go of limitations, step out of their comfort zone, and support each other to explore new or alternative possibilities.
Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker, and coach that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is the author of the newly released book, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at DennisEGilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.