Bridging the Gap Between 50 Year Olds and 20 Year Olds

The ability to translate the meaning and intention of a person above and below is a critical to an organization’s future. Having spent ten years on staff with Cru I have observed that there are a lot of 50 year olds, and a lot of 20 year olds.

As I have sought to pursue change the biggest challenge has been translating my passions and ideas into language that those with decision making power understand. I’ve also learned that’s it not the quality of the idea that primarily causes change–which can be particularly frustrating for younger leaders who do not understand that there is more to making changes than coming up with ideas.

On a day to day basis a huge gap between 50 and 20 year olds is the way each other give and prefer to receive encouragement. 50 year olds often prefer to communicate encouragement as exhortation, which many 20 year olds experience as inauthentic and uncaring. 20 year olds often prefer to communicate encouragement by casual conversation and “hanging out,” which 50 year olds often experience as rude, unprofessional, or inappropriate.

What 20 Year Olds Need to Know About Their Ideas

  • They are not THAT great
  • They are EXTREMELY valuable to explore
  • In a large organization it often takes 10x longer than you think to get a new idea implemented


They are not THAT great
Seriously there are people with more experience and wisdom than you. Your idea comes out of a specific and unique context–corporate or organizational decisions are made in light of the whole. An original idea needs to flex and iterate and bend in order to make it to the top. If you are willing to lose all of your idea but the core concept than you stand a great chance of seeing change happen.


They are EXTREMELY valuable to exploreEven though your idea is not that great, it’s still extremely valuable to the organization. 20 year olds are usually closest to the target group of any organization–if we are to be relevant in 5, 10, and 20 years than these ideas are critical to understanding what cultural changes are happening and how to potentially solve them at the corporate level. For those in the 50 year old camp, understand that 20 year olds value being heard and would be extremely encouraged to KNOW that you have considered their idea–acknowledging the value of an idea does not obligate you to fund or move forward with it. In fact it would help 20 year olds tremendously to hear critical feedback about their idea so that they can go back to the drawing board and come up with a better iteration of their idea.

In a large organization it often takes 10x longer than you think to get an idea implementedJust because you have thought about an idea for a long time does not mean that others have. It takes time for people to absorb new ideas and think about the implications. Realize also that new ideas disrupt other people’s current reality–if you want to get an idea acted on be prepared for resistance, find people who are older than you that believe in the idea, and work with them to educate and demonstrate it’s value in tangible results.

What are some helpful ways you have found to bridge this gap? If you are close to or on the 50 year old side, what do 20 year olds need to know? If you are closer to the 20 year old side, what do 50 year olds need to know to help them understand you better? 


2 thoughts on “Bridging the Gap Between 50 Year Olds and 20 Year Olds

  1. Ironically, I’m right in the middle in my 35th year on this Spinning Globe! I do definitely see the perspectives of both and can understand of them at some level, having worked in large corporations before and small businesses as well, it is clear to me how different they are from one another, but they both have advantages and disadvantages, as do the perspectives of the older and younger coworkers that I have! =)

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