Sunday, January 24, 2010

Conan and Generational Change

So I'm on #teamconan.

I've watched him, on and off, since university (UVic Grad 2001). And he's been great. Pimpbot; Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, the Masturbating Bear are all hilarious. More interesting still was how he came from being a behind the scenes writer-guy to getting out in front of the camera, growing into the role as he got experience. And now, as we know, he's been pushed out of his 'dream job' so that Jay Leno can return to the Tonight Show.

I don't have a real beef with Leno--he's funny for an audience that likes its humor safe, and is apparently a ratings winner in his traditional time slot.

But I'm squarely with Team Conan because of the important subtext of this story: generational change.

Conan is youngish (47), has played by the rules, and done everything he can to position himself to inherit Johnny Carson's chair on the Tonight Show, just like Jay did almost two decades ago.

But the old guy won't budge. And the old guys at NBC, looking desperately at their wallets, won't budge either.

My worry is that this is a portent of things to come.

In every sector of our society, from commerce to public service, teaching to trades, it's anticipated that retirements are going to hugely impact available skills. Young people have been told this for years, and many are ready or are getting ready to lead.

As these shortages begin to really make themselves felt, will organizations follow NBC's lead and bet on the old war horse? Or will new blood get a chance to take the reins of the big show?

Working out a way to avoid a constant, internecine, society wide clash between a tried and tested Baby Boom generation and the group of young people who make up Generation X and onwards, who think their vision of the world is best positioned to lead humanity out of the trouble it finds itself in, is going to be a major challenge. And to be frank, I'm not sure what to do.

In an ideal world, organizations allow young leadership to step in, but evolve a more knowledge focused mentoring role for its vital but older leadership--something like an Emeritus position. It'd be great to know who, if anyone, is trying new inter-generational organizational models on, hopefully with some real benefits to performance.

Posted via email from David's posterous