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Intergenerational Collaboration

June Stead — 21/12/2017
David Bowie & Bing Crosby-The original intergenerational collaborators

You’ve probably seen this Video but for me it represents the spirit of Christmas perfectly.

It was 40 years ago this year in 1977 that cult rockstar David Bowie and iconic crooner Bing Crosby came together in London to record the song ‘Little Drummer Boy’ for TV.

The collaboration defied musical logic. Bowie hated the song, which he felt didn’t suit his voice at all and at first refused to sing it.  In contrast, Crosby embraced the challenge even though television wasn’t something he particularly enjoyed.

Within an hour the writers came up with counterpart lyrics ‘Peace on Earth’ for the picky rock star to sing and he was eventually persuaded to perform.  Apparently, he also told the producers “I’m doing the show because my mother loves Bing Crosby’.

The two men came together in the studio and instantly recognised and respected the musical talent in the other one.  As one sat down to play the piano the other joined in and just three takes later the duet was complete.  Some saw this as a symbol of the end of the intergenerational wars of the 1960’s and 70’s.  Sadly, Bing died unexpectedly a month before the show was due to be aired.

Collaboration plays a critical role in helping businesses thrive and grow.  From increasing productivity to developing new products and ideas, today’s workforce spans five generations. Each of these generations comes with different perspectives on what constitutes successful collaboration and communication.

At the heart of a successful company is a collaborative and unified team but managing a diverse workforce can present challenging biases and tensions.  Creating value for every generation involves facilitating and breaking down barriers in a supportive and open culture.

So, in this spirit I would ask. what are you doing in your business to support and promote collaboration in an inevitable, intergenerational workforce?

A unified workforce with a shared vision, values and complimentary styles means employing the right strategies and tools to bridge the generational gaps.  Technology has a crucial role to play in the form of management software, data analysis and team collaboration tools such as file sharing, messaging, mobile working and cloud capabilities. Perhaps most important is an intergenerational board, mentorship and training.

As for the unlikely and unusual pairing of Bowie and Crosby, their collaboration resulted in a beautiful classic duet as beloved today as it was then.  It probably wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for some quick thinking on the part of a few savvy songwriters. So, make sure you have a sound understanding of your rapidly changing workforce so you can respond just like those songwriters!

Meanwhile, a very happy ‘intergenerational’ Christmas to you all.

June Stead - Senior Business Advisor
June is a serial entrepreneur and provides advice and support for businesses of all sizes.