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Monday, November 19, 2007

Lessons from Japan and Generation Why

As readers of this column will be aware, I am particularly interested in demographics and it's effect on the workforce of the future. I was browsing the BBC website at lunchtime and noticed a piece about Japan and it's demographic time bomb.

Here is the link to the full article

Effectively the Japanese are not producing enough babies to replace those people who die and this will have increasing economic effects for the population - the rise of grey power, and employers chasing fewer and fewer potential workers.

To show it graphically here is a diagram showing what has happened since 1950 and what is projected to happen by 2050

The problem has also been the same in Europe especially in Germany and Italy though not on the scale of Japan.

In my inbox tonight was an interesting piece from the US from Chris Resto about the rise of Generation Why. As I've highlighted in earlier posts they have a different view of the workplace and are more questioning and less deferential than the Baby Boom generation (1945 - 64 and Generation X (1964 - 1984).

This generation though as the article points out may be a blessing for organisations that require knowledge workers. I consider that organisations need people who question the status quo and increasingly innovative solutions are likely to become competitive differentiators.

In fact, as Resto highlights organisations should |" see questions from young employees as signs that they care about contributing to the organisation, and as opportunities to capitalise on the ambition, energy, and enthusiasm for which they hired young talent in the first place."

One of the areas that I learnt from my studies in KM was that management can learn from the process as they are exposed to new ideas and they consider and make redundant old ways of thinking.

I'm not saying that every thing that a senior manager has learnt should be unlearnt but that that junior who asks questions might provide you with some breakthrough thinking that gives you your next big market. You can also highlight to the junior employee some additional thinking that they might not have considered. At the end of the day knowledge sharing is a two way street.

It also shows that they care about your company and it's future to ask those questions and potentially out of a desire to do a good job (but then again I was always a Theory Y guy and the firm I work for certainly embodies those traits.)

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