Sweeping generalizations and dumb cliches

A recent Charlotte Observer Op Ed piece by Ron Stodghill really got under my skin.


Full disclosure:  I am a baby boomer.

In the article Stodghill worries that baby boomers are “a threat to business innovation, whose lifeblood depends on pushing out old ideas to make room for new ones”. He concludes, “the longer boomers postpone retirement, and clog the workforce entryway, the longer it’ll take to tap fresh ideas from it’s younger crop”.

So… young people have fresh ideas and old people don’t.  And that is the secret to economic success?

As you might imagine, I think that is a load crap.

More full disclosure:  I am a baby boomer looking for a job in marketing where “fresh ideas” are the sine qua non of success. I have made a very successful career of providing fresh ideas, and business innovation for my own business and others. I have worked as a “business creative” my entire career.

So I think Mr. Stodghill does me and everyone a disservice when he reports and concludes using dumb and damaging clichés about large demographic groups.

For example, what about this as a topic for an opinion piece?  Would this be acceptable?

“Glut of Millenials an economic big chill?”

This article would closely follow the outline and reasoning of the Observer article, but with the Millennial/Gen Y demographic as the foil. The article would argue that the education of millenials has failed them, and produced a less educated workforce. It would cite global math and science scores and mention deficiencies knowledge of history, civics, and current events.

Further, it would point out that millenials educational socialization was largely in group projects where they learned to value consensus and “group think” at the expense of individual critical thinking, effort, and excellence.  It would note that they expect all their work to get an “A” grade. Everyone gets the same trophy, even when the competition is superior.

Then it would comment that “older workers” know from education and experience that great new ideas and perfectly good intentions often fail when committees, “group think”, and a lack of individual passion dull the original idea or intent beyond recognition.

The article would conclude that business should stick with talented and experienced and passionate baby boomers because millenials, as a group, are economic problems.  Stick a fork in them, they are done.

Those are outrageous wrong minded generalizations…right?

Even more full disclosure:  I love young adults.  I want to work with smart young adults!

And that is my larger point: Economic, creative, and business success has little to do with generation or age, and everything to do with talent and leadership.

Fortunately, successful business leaders know this.

They create clear goals, nurture productive talent, and mentor those that need improvement. They look to the bottom line and they see who really produces for them, regardless of age or label.

Wisdom, initiative, ideas and “beginners mind” are individual qualities common to individuals in all age groups.  Hire individuals, not stereotypes.

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3 Responses to Sweeping generalizations and dumb cliches

  1. Paul Novak says:

    100% agree Mike, plus baby-boomers had better music ; -)

  2. Mary Coombs says:

    What’s the definition of age-ism. Seems Stodghill clearly defines it.

  3. Corey Creed says:

    Good points. Certainly businesses should not hire based on age alone. Also, news media should be careful not to generalize on topics such as this. Thanks for your comments.

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