What will happen to the years of knowledge?

What will happen to the years of  knowledge?

I was coming back from Christchurch the other evening and because it was so stormy, I was trying to take my mind off my very queasy stomach. I started observing the people on the plane. Admittedly, it wasn’t a jet, but rather a regional smaller aircraft so I could observe most. Here’s what I noted. Around 70% of the passengers were business people, around 10% tourists and 10% families/ partners. Of the 70% most were men and a handful of women. Most of the business travellers were 40 and upwards at a guess although it is hard these days to even attempt to judge age!  I started counting up the years of knowledge and business experience in the plane. The numbers were staggering.

There will be a huge  number of people retiring from the workplace in the next 25 years and all within a similar timeframe so they can go off and do things together.  In 25 years, all of that knowledge will be gone as it exists today and replaced with younger, hungry, innovative and fast paced minds who won’t be travelling every week  to attend meetings. That’s just not their style. For one, it’s not productive and certainly not efficient. Sitting at airports and travelling time zones to have meetings won’t be an issue unless there is some sort of adventure location attached to it.  Here’s my thought process around this.

If the business knowledge through years of experience is gone in organisations within a short timeframe, then how will the legacy of some of these organisations be retained? All the hard work, stories and sense of identity will be gone. More importantly, what happens to all the knowledge? Are organisations preparing for this now? In my experience and with my healthy performing culture work, I see that we find it difficult to have these ” difficult ” conversations to help people transition. And to be fair, those who have 25 years left and perhaps hang on for dear life to the job they have today, going sometimes to the extent of  promoting within to people they like and trust to ensure they are ” looked after”  before gracefully heading into the expiration part of the leadership model. Either  way, performance is compromised because it is either status quo or the person continues to do the same thing each week, not willing to or perhaps struggling  to change their mindset to applying different techniques. At the end of the day, how many times do you hear of great stories where people have been awarded recognition that even goes some way to cover the years of service some of these people have given to one organisation – being willing to spend long days away from family to ensure the goals of the company are met  and more importantly that they have done a ” good job”.

How will business continue to be activated in 25 years? We will have a generation who want to move and transition careers many times in their career lifecycle which on one hand is totally refreshing but on the other a little daunting. How will the longevity and business lifecycle of the organisation be maintained? New buildings won’t matter, accessible fast technology will. This is a generation of technology efficiency for sure. However, when it comes to communication,  I believe we listen to reply rather than understand. Most of the communication is done via technology or in online forums. We are so time poor that we don’t actually stop and think. We scan read, tick and move on. With this in play, how will the core, the foundation of business, the reason it started, it’s Why,  the thing that made them great must surely still be protected.

I totally agree that we must move forward and bring new thinking, disruptive innovation, better diversity and most importantly more impactful  leadership into the mix.  However, we are still having the same conversations now around aligning business and technology goals  that we were having 25 years ago. The opportunity with realigning this is through effective communication and much more powerful outcomes.

If we don’t have those on board with a vested interest in the company rather than completing a project and moving on, how will it work? There won’t be that social interaction and camaraderie where the troops rally together to roll up the sleeves and get the job done no matter how long it takes. Airline travel will change. The need to travel for work purposes will decline as better more effective and affordable technology take over.I read this week, that the social media platform is building lower self esteem, seeing an increase in both cyber-bullying and physical and verbal bullying  and younger people are  feeling alone and isolated. Respect is compromised. Communication is withdrawn and huge societal issues are well underway. How will this impact work environments? Why wouldn’t this behaviour continue if the habit is already formed at a younger age? Who will ensure the health and safety of the work environment?

I can see it now. The social interaction and gender, age, traditional rules we have followed for years will be changed. An example of this happening now is the rules of aircraft exiting don’t seem to apply anymore. People come forward from the back to jump the queue to get out first. There’s no excuse me, would you mind, it’s just a given that we can do that.   We will continue to spend time knowing what our colleagues appear to be  doing or not through social media.

Can we change it all overnight? NO not at all. It’s about awareness initially. Can you answer the question  What will my organisation look like in 25 years? Who will protect the legacy and keep its core value, the reason for starting it intact?

And as for all that knowledge on the aircraft, it’s a jolly good thing we did land safely, it’s still intact for now anyway. 


Rebecca Morris

Rebecca set up Paradigm Shift in 2011 because in her corporate career she repeatedly observed leaders choosing to let chaos reign rather than work out strategies for effective change. Or put simply – poor leadership.

With a background in educational psychology, roles as CEO, sales executive, business coach, business owner and teacher, Rebecca uses her proven experience and insights along with her practical tool box to get results.

Rebecca observes human behaviour and associated patterns and enables leaders to become present to their patterns through her IP, Observational Intelligence (OI). Rebecca uses her 'cycle of interruption' approach to interrupt, innovate and lead from new paradigms creating collectively powerful leaders and culture-safe organisations.

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