This past week I had the “extraordinary” pleasure to travel with my mother to Knoxville, Tennessee for some work and leisure. Full Disclosure: My mother and I are business partners at New Directions where we talk and train with groups on leadership and team-building. As you can imagine it takes a unique set of personalities for two people to work together – let alone be mother and son and work together. We seem to do it quite well.
Well, we thought we did it well until we ended up in Knoxville – me driving, while mom played navigator with her iPhone. Sure, have us co-present, write a book (Survival of the Hive), discuss emerging leadership trends and business innovations and we do fine. People come up to us and remark on how well we work together, amazed at the idea of a mother-son team. But, put one of us in the driver seat and one of us using our smart phone to navigate and something else occurs. Generational frustration! In most instances it was my frustration as the driver that mom (a true Baby Boomer) was unable to quickly utilize all the functions of her iPhone. First, she wasn’t what I call “committed to touch screen.” That is she was running her finger across the screen at such a speed and angle that the iPhone wouldn’t always perform the task. I truly believe, and this is not me picking on older people, that because of the poor circulation of your finger tips as you get older, that touch screens don’t pick up as much sensitivity of the touch as they would with younger people. It’s a theory. “Commit to the touch!” I would start saying annoyed as mom was “flitting” all over her iPhone.
Then, it was the inability to “see up and around the corner with options” when it comes to finding information. I think Millennials have a raw natural talent to think multiple options as gateways to the answer. If one doesn’t work, we’re already thinking of option 2 and 3 to get the information we need. If it’s coming up ‘results not found’ on your maps, go to Google – either find the map there or find the address, copy and paste into maps (you see where I’m going). Of course mom would start to retype the address and I’d say, “Just copy and paste it!” “How do you do that?” You can begin to see how this car ride was going.
Once we found the route the information from my mom’s screen wasn’t being presented fast enough for me to drive successfully. “Missed exit; right, no left; it was that turn back there!” Eventually, I think I just started taking out my phone and typing in what I needed.
From the Boomer side, there was criticism on my driving, my tone once I started to get annoyed with the pace of information (or bottleneck of it), impatience and lack of empathy for a beginner in technology.
Have you ever found yourself (either a Millennial or Boomer/Xer) in this position? Perhaps with your own mother or maybe a co-worker? I think the most surprising thing to me was here I am a speaker and trainer on the multi-generational workforce. I am constantly talking about how we all need to get along and provide space for differences and now I was the one falling into some pretty basic pitfalls and nasty behaviors. In reflection, I go back and think what could we have done differently? Maybe mom drives and I use the tech? Maybe this was a great reverse-mentoring moment and mom will be faster the next time because we spent days going over technology and she appreciates that.
In any event my Millennial friends - breath, have patience, find what your strength is and identify what older generations bring to the table that helps you qualify their part. We may be "this" but they are all of "that." They come with vast experiences, history, strategy, insight and knowledge – possibly more than any simple iPhone could ever provide. We'd be smart to tap into that.