Among my Generation X colleagues, discussions abound regarding the challenges in working with the younger generation.  But what makes intergenerational collaboration works well?

Lorin Gresser CEO Dem DxThat’s where I turned to Lorin Gresser, Gen X CEO of Dem Dx, and Andy Davis, the Gen Y , UX and Marketing Director to learn about their company culture and practices.  Dem Dx is a medical diagnosis app used by medical students and doctors in more than 150 countries.  Through Dem Dx medical students and other healthcare professionals, including nurses, tap into the medical expertise from seasoned experts to improve disease diagnostics.

“We (Dem Dx) can potentially help save lives.”

Intergenerational Communication
Key Success Factors

1. To recognize our co-dependence
to reach a common goal

Lorin Gresser (LG): “Our app takes medical expertise from seasoned experts and makes it available to the younger generation.  Both generations need to understand and believe in our mission.

It is essential that our team understand the mindset of the younger generation since it is being used by them.  It is incessantly challenging for me…my 13-year-old is more in tune with some of the way the team thinks than I am!  Our work resides in their world more than in mine.

“The skillset they have is not the skillset we have. We need each other.”

The skillset they have is not the skillset we have.  To do our business we have to do it their way; there is no way we (Gen X) could have done it on our own.  To access the medical expertise, they (Gen Y & Z) could not have done it on their own.  We need each other.

Gain strength from vulnerability

Practically speaking, this means acknowledging the limits of my own knowledge.  There is no room for pretense.  I ask, “You are going to have to go slower. Show me.”  It must be super frustrating for them to explain things – and it definitely It requires mutual respect.

Laugh and Learn together

And good sense of humor helps us connect. We have a very flat organization structure and decision-making is collaborative.  This decision-making process reflects the interdependicies and mix of skillsets.”

Use Power to Connect

“The CEO has the power to deflect power struggles.”

Andy Davis (AD): “The CEO has power…the power to fire, for sure, but more importantly the ability to deflect power struggles.  We have conversations.  We are all human beings with opinions.  We seek them out and find out together the best way to move ahead.

“When an individual is not happy, the team is not happy.”

We listen to each other; when an individual is not happy, the team is not happy.  This is particularly true in the tight culture of a start up.

Converge over Big Ideas

I believe in big ideas.  Dem Dx can potentially help save lives.  In recruiting we seek people who care about the problem we are solving and who care about solving problems.  We are enablers for people inside and outside the company to perform at their best.”

“I believe in big ideas.

We seek people who care about the problem we are solving and who care about solving problems.”

2. To intentionally channel communication

Both Gresser and Davis agree that intergenerational communication can be tough and requires intentional cultural translation.  Fully cooperating with another person is 100/100…not 50/50!

Funnel communications through Generation Interpreters

LG: “I am an in-between person for these generations.  I am in contact with the medical experts.  My team is made up of young generation experts – both in terms of technology of today and the way knowledge and information are consumed.  The app is designed by young generations for people of their generation.

I think having a go between across the user and clinical expertise is important. Having a medical background is key but also having some members with a few more years under their belt does help.”

Build relationship bridges

AD: “Communication can be so easily misunderstood.  I recommend you find the bridge between generations. A bridge can be a person, someone who recognizes there is a knowledge gap.

Team members come to me with questions about what someone else said.  I advise them to speak up and tell the person when they don’t understand.

Secure Buy-in on the Principles

We cannot assume that everyone understands.  Our generation works so much with intuition.  We need to explain the “why” and the thought process supporting our intuitions.”

LG: “For the day-to-day decisions, I can understand the concept.  The rest I leave up to them.  Once I have signed off on the principle, I leave the logistics and how to make it happen up to them.”

AD: “We have to explain our intuitions.  Among our younger generation there is a lack of understanding of human psychology, how people think.

I encourage the team to share the principles, the thinking behind their behavior.  Since we have a lack of experience, we must be willing to adjust, to be ready to change.

We don’t look for blame.  We search for what could and should be done.  If we qualify what we should be doing, then we can find out how to get it done.”

“To build communication bridges, we need to explain the “why” and the thought process supporting our intuitions.”

Recognize Entrepreneurship as a bridge

LG: “We only have start-up entrepreneurs on the team.  That’s also why it’s a team that works.  They are amazing.  Hungry.  Curious.  Driven by solutions and achieving things.  Driven by a belief.  They’re not scared by hard work.  They make things happen.”

3. To build trust by focusing on results

Test Assumptions with A/B Testing

AD: “Younger generations base so much decision-making on intuition.  We have assumptions and respond to our feelings; we’re the mobile generation.  To check that we are getting it right, we measure.

We A/B test everything and often.

Of course, we do our research too and justify our decisions.  We research best practices and our customers.  We include our customers in the design of the product, even in big decisions like capital allocation.

We sent two people to a conference.  We calculate the return on this investment by measuring the results of every step from number of leads generated to first contact and to closing the deal.  We also track the time consumed; it’s part of our customer acquisition cost.”

Define together; implement independently

LG: “Delegation on a number of aspects is key when your team have a deeper specialist knowledge than you – letting them take ownership

We define expected results together and have formal meetings every ten days with actionable steps.  It’s collaborative and we have accountability.

The team ran the recruitment process for our latest hire.  I have no way of judging what a good developer is. They kept me updated on the status.  My part was to find out if the candidate was a good fit.”

4. To focus on solutions, not on blame

Listen…and Listen More

LG: “Everyone needs to be a good listener.  The team is amazing; there is no problem.  We never have, “Oh, that failed!”  Instead it’s a focus on solutions.  How are we going to solve this?

We avoid bureaucracy and politics.”

Hire Contributors

“My aim is to empower people, like colleagues, to empower other people, like customers.”

AD: “When interviewing someone I first ask to understand them as a person.  We want to work with a good human being, someone who cares about himself and about other people.

Then I explore his work ethic by asking what they want from work and life.  We are hiring for the long term, not just two years.  So, I explore how they define their next level and how they hope to get there.

My aim is to empower people, like colleagues, to empower other people, like customers.  We care about solving problems and we care about the problem we are solving for our users.”

Thank You

Thank you Lorin Gresser and Andy Davis for sharing your passion and insights.  You encourage us to develop cooperation between generations through

  • Humility to admit others might be right
  • Hunger to learn
  • Hope for better solutions together

May you and Dem Dx thrive as you bring expertise of the experienced to the young doctors throughout the globe.

To our readers, what are some of the big ideas in which your believe?  What intergenerational communication challenges do you experience?  Let us know in the comments.

Cover photo by Carlo Navarro on Unsplash

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