Working on generations is a source of innovation for companies

Octave A la Une, Generations

Working on generations is a source of innovation for companies

Working on generations is a source of innovation for companies

Written by Anne Thevenet-Abitbol

The Octave Program began in 2012. It was created on the strength of the EVE Program, an intercompany business seminar focusing on women’s leadership that encourages women to “dare to be yourself and unleash your potential”. The idea behind the program being that if we want to change things, we must first look at changing ourselves. Given the success of this EVE Program and its power to change lives, we considered how to apply the same method to other populations in the company, not just women.

We looked at the various generations, and the difficulties they could potentially face. We realized that we don’t treat people of different ages in the same way. Often, from the age of 45, we place people in the “senior” category, and these older employees are less likely to be offered new projects and challenges. Young people may feel cramped in their job, and have aspirations that they feel are ignored. Finally, the middle generation is torn between the behavior of the baby boomers and that of Gen Y.

We also realized that in our constantly shifting world, working on generations meant bringing about innovation. There have always been different generations working together in businesses, but what separates them now more than ever is new technology.

Technology has revolutionized how we work together, and changed our relationship with knowledge, time, authority, work, managerial structure, etc. Just consider how we think about power. In the past, the person with the information was the one with all the power, and that person decided who would know what. Now power is the hands of anyone who knows how to find their way through the mass swathes of information, and can form an opinion on it. Our relationships with hierarchy and authority have also changed. When a problem arose in the past, we would turn to our leader; now the young generations are turning to their network, and willingly putting themselves into “project” mode. Last example: our relationship with time. The boundary between our private and professional lives has now become blurred, we can work from home on a smartphone and check our Facebook profile from the office.

It’s more than just generation Y, it is a whole culture Y that is spreading and challenging our organizations, which are still governed by a hierarchical baby boomer culture. We will always require some sort of vertical alignment, but we must also take into account the growing search for meaning, the need to promote interaction, to value lateral and transversal career paths. To stop thinking of management as a pyramid.

Many studies also show that high quality interactions between generations improve collective performance and bring down overall stress levels.

So the purpose of the Octave Program is to improve how everyone in the company works together. And it’s right there in its name: Octave. Imagine that a company is a piano on which you only play the two central octaves, those of the generation in power between 30 and 50 years, and neglect the low octaves (oldest) and the high octaves (youngest). To create beautiful music, every person, regardless of their age, note or tempo, has a role to play in the composition of the company.

Octave is a culture and change program based on three transformation pillars: generations, digital, and change management! The next edition of the Octave Program is taking place in Evian from March 19th to 21st. Two hundred and eighty people are to attend, including around 20 participants from each of the partner companies: Danone, Société Générale, Engie, Bristol-Myers-Squibb, L’Oréal, and Orange.

Be yourself, and be part of a changing world!

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