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“Seniority”, or “the old rock stars never die, and they don’t want others decide for them when….”


A usual thought in the organizations is how to effectively gain that the organization, its` teams and people learn, evolve and integrate the knowledge in their manners of performance?

And we observe that it expresses itself in a context where the company is under pressure to adapt effectively and successfully to the continuous changes of the market conditions, and integrate the impact of the technological development in the ways of creating value to the client. It is also a reality that the life cycles of the products and duration of the competitive advantages are each time shorter and of an each time more perishable duration.

With this scenario it is a necessary condition to introduce the disruptive innovation associated to the new technologies TIC, and new ways of thinking and acting both individually and collectively. It is required that processes and working styles should be more agile, with continuous cycles in order for the unlearning and learning of the people in the organizations.

And it is in this scenario of continuous change with a high level of changes in the performing manners, it can appear that it is no longer a strength, our experiences and the past experiences and background for a great majority of the “veteran” people of the organization. It is like this that we sometimes see, in a historical way, we run the risk of installing a high level of “ephebism” in the theatre of the organizations.

The simplistic approach, that associates the capacity and potential that allow to innovate and break with old stereotypes they might no longer efficient for generating value and sustainability for the company, only to factors such as: youth, highly dynamic profiles, the knowledge of new technologies, the multitask capacity … it leaves behind other important factors such as: the resilience, the knowledge, the lived experiences from a continuous learning, the mature levels of development of the “adult” brain, the capacity to “mentor” and pass down knowledge, etc.

And if for a moment we accept as true the dichotomy (young-innovation / adult-status quo), an idea rises regarding what role should we give to those who aren`t now, actors of the future theatre, what destiny do those that have past the adult age have, without having obtained “powerful” positions in the organizations sufficient to be saved from the confusion and the consequences of applying extreme “ephebisme”?

We can see that different solutions exist in the multinational profile companies which deal with this topic. And hence it is frequent the use of “missions and responsibility in the golden road”, “pre-retirement programmes”, or simply a natural forgetfulness in the processes for “talent revision” or “people review”, for which the adults without a high rank are smoothly shifted aside from the high responsibility positions.

This is something that in the world of the family companies and SMEs have a totally different approach! In actual fact if I talk about by personal experience as a Consultant, I frequently find in these types of organizations, “youngsters” of more than 60 years old, and “seniors” in active, with a will of visualising improvements and of doing different things in their businesses. In actual fact, some days ago at a meeting with the “young owner” of 68 years old from a prosperous company, and his “salesperson” well into his 60s he explained his future international plans for his company… And on that moment I remembered of the “old” song from Miguel Rios “the old rock stars never die…”.

And it is here where we can observe all the goodness that can be offered to the human beings from the lived years:

  • Human beings learn by experiences, for this reason, with more experiences, if lived with an open mind, with more years more possibility of having lived a greater number of successes and failures.
  • The increase in our life expectation, makes the senior personnel to have good health, and can be considered totally “useful” from a “physical” point of view.Esperanza de vida. España 2010
  • That the transmission of knowledge models in those “complicated” tasks (in which experience is a plus and the model professor-student is highly effective) it is facilitated with the coexisting of “young” with “senior” staff (the mentor concept in its maximum expression), something which is being destroyed nowadays with the early retirement plans without having connected “learners with professors”.
  • That the feeling of usefulness is one of the pillars for a psychological health in the human beings. We observe how multinational companies with an important “early retirement” group, are activating ways in which they can integrate in normally philanthropic activities those who once were part of the group. In the SMEs this need for activating “balanced” formulas are not needed as they live a more balanced evolution in this area (another very different topic is how to adapt to the new ideas the possibility for them to be expressed and put into practise, when the status-quo blocks it).

The purpose of these words is not to create a confrontation of “seniors” against “youngsters”, but to evaluate the great value that exists when working ones with the others, the positive value of coexisting in the same space the two natural phases of our cycle as human beings. And it is for this reason important to value how to create a space where ones and the others perform complementary roles.

I have not wanted to approach, the barriers that ones (youngsters) or the others (seniors) must solve in order for the life cycle of the organisation continues its way, without staying anchored in what used to be, and neither directed by a highly hormonal impulse. This topic which normally it is not so much of young age or old age, but of “being able and afraid of leaving it” of the people that have management positions.


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