The modern Elder

Chip Conley credit: Lisa KeatingChip Conley

Author, Founder at Modern Elder Academy, USA

Your book wisdom@work is about „The modern elder“. Who is that person what makes a modern elder?

An elder is someone who is a generation or two older than those who surround them. I was 52 when I joined Airbnb where the average age was 26. But, unlike the elder of the past who was regarded with reverence, a modern elder is appreciated for their relevance as they're as curious as they are wise. Curiosity opens up possibility, while wisdom distills what's essential.

Is the modern elder a role exclusive for white collar workers if not for managers? Is it applicable for the average worker on the assembly line or more an “elite concept”?

We have had steel workers, nurses, and school teachers here at our Modern Elder Academy campus in Mexico from 24 countries so we know the idea isn't exclusively focused on elite managers or leaders.
Wisdom is valuable in any organization and at any level. And, our world's first midlife school has proven that wisdom isn't taught, it's shared.

What’s your view on the startup world? Do you see that founders have a longevity strategy when they make their business plans?

More and more investors are choosing to pair the young entrepreneurs they invest in with seasoned modern elders because they see value in the synergy of genius and wisdom. I believe the young founders of Airbnb really appreciated they had senior leaders like me at their side, especially during the difficult times. I've been fortunate enough to be Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky's in-house mentor for seven years now.

Regarding the modern elder: What’s your advice for founders?

Find subject matter experts with experience to join you on your journey as they won't just offer expertise in their knowledge area, but they'll offer emotional intelligence and leadership and organizational savvy as well.

What’s your advice for people in later life?

People in later life In order to be worthwhile to those younger than you, it's essential to evolve and edit your mindset and identity. Even though you may be the oldest person in the room, it helps to be the most curious one as well.

What’s your advice for policymakers?

There's growing evidence that age diversity creates the most effective teams even more so than gender, race and sexual orientation diversity, all of which are positive influencers as well. And, yet only 8% of companies with a Diversity and Inclusion program have expanded it to include age so encourage companies to be more age-friendly as it's time we developed more intergenerational collaboration.

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