11/12/2012 06:34 pm ET Updated Jan 12, 2013

Crossing the Digital Divide

Every generation has something to learn from the generations that came before it.

I recently recommended a seasoned graphic designer to a 20-something client and emphasized that the professional artist had 30 years of Madison Avenue agency experience. "That means nothing to me," she replied.

Thousands of 20-something entrepreneurs have hung out shingles (or the virtual equivalent) in the past few years, proclaiming themselves "social media gurus." Similarly, some very bright business people are stalled in their professional and business growth by a failure to keep up with trends in technology.

Wisdom and experience seem to mean a whole lot less these days than they once did. Many successful professionals are shutting themselves off from trends that will ultimately allow their competitors to flourish. Business innovation and career development ultimately result from a killer combination of technological capabilities and the depth and insights that evolves over years of trial and error and mistake-making.

The two generations of boomers have much to teach each other. But it begins with respect and admiration for what each group knows and can bring to the workplace.

Below are some (perhaps vast) generalizations about things we can learn from each other in the workplace. When I was 20-something, I believed that almost anything was possible. Now, at 50-something, I know that years of experience has a value, even as the world is rapidly changing. Most important, the generations should respect each other, learn to speak each other's language, and remember that a great idea can come at any age.

What Can Baby Boomers Teach Echo Boomers?
  • Face-to-face selling techniques
  • Phone etiquette
  • Job-hunting and interviewing skills
  • Good old fashioned research skills (although Google is a fabulous tool, I have found that knowing which terms to search on seems to be a skill that more seasoned professionals possess; perhaps because we grew up with library card catalogs and had to search a bit harder for information)
What Can Echo Boomers Teach Baby Boomers?
  • All forms of social media
  • How to learn new skills by watching YouTube videos
  • Fearlessness and independence
  • Speed (sometimes)
  • Work/life balance (often mistaken for laziness and a lack of urgency, this may also be just a realization that life is about more than just a career)