Celebrating 20 Years!

Celebrating 20 Years!


The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Bradley University (OLLI) is a group of more than 1,000 individuals, age 50 and over, who learn together through three distinct programs: OLLI Classes, OLLI Learning Trips, and OLLI Study Groups.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Leading Across Generations -- February 19, 2010



Who would guess that a pair of shoes could cause friction? That’s where last week’s “Leading Across Generations” workshop started—with a pair of flip flops.

Hosted by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Bradley, the workshop placed over 100 Bradley students, staff, and OLLI members in multi-age work groups discussing generational differences. The shoes served as a perfect analogy for identifying how your age can influence your behavior.

“Flip flops were the lowest form of footwear when I was young,” said facilitator Haydn Shaw. “You wore them to the shower at the campground. But today, flip flops are worn at work,” he continued.

Hayden’s workshop highlighted that for the first time in history, four generations are in the workforce: Traditionalists (born between 1901 – 1943); Baby Boomers (born between 1944 – 1964); Gen Xers (born between 1965 – 1981); and Millennials (born between 1982 – 2003). Each generation has its own perspectives, styles, and biases, and these make the work place an environment where values may collide.

“Beyond work, these values show up in our families, our churches, our little leagues, and the way we live,” said Shaw.

Workshop participants, representing the four generations, engaged in activities and discussions about their generational differences. “I wore a suit and tie for 37 years,” said retiree, Gil Nolde, as his student counterparts, dressed in jeans and, yes, flip flops, shook their heads sympathetically.

Throughout the 4-hour workshop, the tone shifted from hilarity to reflection as participants challenged their own generational stereotypes and learned that differences, while sometimes tense, are also good starting points for real dialogue.

“We observe that younger generations have advantages that we didn’t have, but we don’t see the challenges they have that we didn’t,” said Shaw noting that most children in his generation could play “til the streetlights come on” but that today’s parents are concerned about safety and focusing on “stranger danger.”

“When it comes to the challenge of leading across different generations, great leaders see opportunities where others see only problems,” writes Shaw in his guide, “21 Day Challenge.” “Great leaders don’t ignore differences…they embrace them.”

Special thanks to Carla Montez, Marketing Director for Continuing Education, for writing this article!

To learn what Lydia Moss Bradley thought of the workshop, be sure to visit her blog!

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