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Thank you, Keith Reinhard. Time for effective Chief Learning Officers (CLOs)


It was something asked recently during a Zoom call meeting when, after discussing whatever little we know about AI had run its course, I navigated the conversation to these questions:


Where did the term “generation gap” come from, is this the right terminology, what is this “gap” and might we have finally fallen headfirst into whatever it’s meant to be?



After all these many years of trying to put our Humpty Dumpty world together, this “gap” still exists and is almost a deterrent purposely placed to stop things from being able to move on. 



Though the world apparently keeps evolving and revolving, and often times quite revolting with restless natives and the low end of priorities, this “gap” remains solid and as another proud brick in the invisible wall of discontent and constant misunderstanding.


Could this “generation gap” actually be the result of a lack of good mentorship and the baton not being passed from generation to generation?


Does this gap exist because we have become lost in the clusters of clutter on “social media”, which are very often far more dangerous and addictive than any disease because here is something that can easily warp minds. But, it’s allowed to carry on… 


Why?



These past few months, I have met new people and broken bread with those from the not so distant past.


Not being someone who’s into reminiscing and showing Facebook family snaps, it’s always interesting listening to people and deep diving into their stories and seeing how these invariably these don’t add up.


Nothing really wrong with this if it’s able to be seen as frothy entertainment and how so many of these stories are part of someone auditioning to try and sell themselves into being who they’re not, and perhaps be part of a business opportunity with real wings and not Google talk.


Maybe it’s expecting too much from people, but in order to move forward, the truth, as they say, will set you free, and there’s no need to continue hiding behind masks and mentioning a “generation gap”.


Wouldn’t it be far more constructive if we worked towards showing the world why people should come together instead of working in isolation to make things fall apart?


Isn’t this part of the job responsibilities of world leaders?



This “generation gap” is much more complex today than what probably started with the hippies and flower power against the police and politicians



It’s going back to the days of the Village Voice, Jann Wenner publishing Rolling Stone, Watergate, the Vietnam War, and those times that were a-changing.



For me, it probably was being a kid and watching the first television debate between the bushy eyebrows of Richard Mulhouse Nixon and the young and handsome JFK that led to the latter winning and the start of the supposed age of Camelot.  



Those Arthurian days and nights came to an abrupt halt when the world changed forever on that infamous day in Dallas followed by its various fallouts and conspiracy theories that some are still trying to piece together.



What was happening for the first time in America- and which affected most of the world- was a counter culture that was questioning leadership and demanding answers through change.


Was this counter culture perhaps being naive?


Maybe. But new thinking had to start somewhere- even with naïveté.



Wasn’t seeing this counter culture enrolling in some hippie school and dropping acid to be admitted?



I was recently watching an old interview with musician and former member of the Hollies Graham Nash talk about how he changed as a person while touring America.


This was when he fell out of love with the catchy pop music of the Hollies and joined David Crosby and Stephen Stills, later Neil Young, and how he embraced their way of life, which was peace and love and politics and righting some very big wrongs.


There was still no “gap” in anything he said though what was clear were different clouds gathering and trying to understand each other better and put forward questions and ideas without coming up against resistance.



Where things might have stalled was when some- the so called establishment- resented being asked what else they did other than what was shown to the public- especially when these questions were asked by long haired musicians wearing kaftans and through their songs.



Then again, perhaps creating conflict with the mainstream media on their side might have worked to meet the objectives of those in the politics of big big and bigger global War Is Good businesses.



Has anything really changed other than there being more tribes of many colours shouting over each other about, well, things and wars going on?


In the Seventies, here was a new enemy and opportunity- young people with dreams and no business experience who could be used to deflect from whatever “the establishment” were doing for self-serving purposes.


This way of thinking and putting up hurdles has been allowed to continue, and which is maybe why we eventually grew weary, or had to conform to the responsibilities of being married and everything this meant.


We got sidetracked and hijacked and duped.


Almost everything had become bumper sticker thinking though these times also inspired an entirely new generation of poets and musicians and writers that brought about a new and very creative sub culture.  



There was and there still is no “gap”- no generation gap unless this fits into what you’re looking at pushing through as business.


In fact, we all might be far more similar than we think by buying into creating a divisive society.

Isn’t this what so-called “social media” has done?


They knocked and we let them in, shared almost everything with them and they ran off owning all the Rights.



The term “generation gap” is used loosely today in boardrooms and bored rooms when people in executive positions don’t have any answers to questions about finding solutions.


The easy answer: Blame it on the “generation gap” and bring in subservient social media experts back this up. 


Next, keep on keeping on…



Isn’t this “gap” actually about the differences that come with changing times? And, if so, shouldn’t these first be understood instead of looking for something new to further complicate an already very complicated existence? 


It again seems to come down to the fact that mentoring has been lost in the rush to progress.



Of course, everything comes down to how one chooses to live their lives, self belief and following those sliding doors moments.


If happy to be retired and paint flowers and take photos of cats or whatever works for you, fine.


If, however, you still have something to contribute to life by staying relevant, then surely, there’s still time to work on changing the narrative and getting rid of terms like this “generation gap”, which, more often than not, is an excuse for not having bananas- and leaving click bait city behind.



At a time in the world when we’re drowning in clutter and from way too much information and too many wanting to do so much so quickly and with almost nothing relevant to show, all this everything that’s nothing has made me think about what was achieved before technology became the idea and the be all and end all.


I think about how innocently and passionately I pursued the girl who became my wife and all that she and I achieved without living life on a mobile phone, but instead meeting in person for dinner and having “FaceTime” by sharing everything face to face.


We didn’t speak emoji.


We held hands, we were happy for as long as the happiness lasted and making our futures take shape by being parents, learning as we went and without apps and saps, influencers, online dating, and different ways to de-stress.


Maybe without knowing it, some of us had enrolled in a different kind of school without knowing it- a lifetime school where we learned things we didn’t in secondary school or college?


I was learning more about myself- mistakes and failures and sins and forgiveness and redemption and lots of self reflection and self loathing- and also what could be achieved by absorbing everything around me that somehow meant something.


These were things that made me excited and want to work at doing something creative- whatever “creative” meant.

 

This was found in the work of Jim Henson, Steven Spielberg, Hitchcock, Scorsese, Disney’s Jungle Book, Mel Blanc, the television series “Rich Man, Poor Man”, and especially all the music that had influenced me growing up and which I made the time to hear.

 

Thank goodness for YouTube!


There was the music and videos of Les Paul, the recordings by Sinatra and arranger Nelson Riddle, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Bobby Darin, The Beatles, Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Henry Mancini, Hal David and Burt Bacharach, James Taylor, Carole King, the extremely underrated 10cc…


These, too, were my mentors in that their work inspired me.



Learning to play guitar led to writing songs and understanding how words came together.


You’re now a singer-songwriter and storyteller and if fortunate to work on music in a recording studio, you learn something new from those around you or reading up on the way the Beatles worked with producer George Martin.





Creating music wasn’t about buying beats and loops and auto tuning etc. 


When we experimented, it was at home and with the technology we had like maybe a cassette tape recorder. The inspiration we picked up on was whether it was a record review by Dave Marsh, a Cameron Crowe interview or one photograph.



It was going back and watching the groundbreaking recording techniques of Les Paul.


How did I know about Les Paul and the great songwriters in Tin Pan Alley and the Brill Building and Motown?


Curiosity, reading, reading some more, fortune to meet and interview some artists, hearing their stories, and then knowing that here was something for me and which friends might enjoy.



Ever watched how George Martin made the Beatles more than their parts by bouncing tracks and lessons he passed on to Paul, John and George? He was their Merlin.



I have been thinking how much more truly original the standards of creativity were- the films, the music, the art, the advertising- and how much our mentors inspired our thinking and helped forge the roads we’ve taken. 



Porsche, 1967


Today, The Peter Principle is back again because of a seemingly dearth of real talent and mediocrity being accepted and incompetence promoted.


Those meant to be managing and setting standards are, by and large, nervously holding onto their highly paid positions in case someone pulls the rug from under them and the roof caves in on their legacies.


I still watch the videos of Keith Reinhard, my mentor in advertising at DDB, making presentations and I am still learning from him, this time about life.


Here was someone who taught me the importance of advertising having an emotional attachment and us Mad Men being able to think on our feet, having an inquisitive mind and breaking the pattern.


In many ways, it was not different to working to be Don Draper, but without all his baggage.




Looking at Hong Kong in 2024, I wonder what has brought about such hackneyed thinking from so many.


This is when I go back and look at the amazing work of designer Henry Steiner and everything he has given Hong Kong including those who are some of the best designers the city has produced.



I look at what admen and filmmakers like James Wong and Michael Hui gave the city along with the excitement of Bruce Lee returning to his home.


There were real entrepreneurs and game changers like David Tang, below, my friend Daniel Ng, who listened to only himself and launched McDonald’s in Hong Kong, and Allan Zeman who took a rubbish dump and turned it into Lan Kwai Fong. 



Were we arrogant enough to think that we could stop learning?


Were we so selfish not to share this learning with the younger generation, especially about the world around us and the city in which we live?


Maybe it were the Covid and lockdown years, but, perhaps more to blame was the importance placed on holding onto power bases while others whittled away at algorithms and a very faux world dazed and confused and kidnapped and brainwashed by the bogeyman and his friends on social media.


Whatever it might be, instead of progressing and making things happen with our god given talents, we’ve been regressing though believing in its “progress”, and stumbling into the arms of more and more technology- but without any idea of where any of this might lead. 


We’re very often actually busy doing nothing and fooling ourselves that it’s something when there’s been a breakdown in communications- not a gap- that needs to be bridged so that we can have more focus and clarity of purpose.



Personally speaking, the more pertinent question is how to fill the void that exists in creativity today- not all creativity, but there’s still way too much cheese out there with too many holes.



This is the generation gap that needs to be filled with what’s relevant and sustainable for the generations to come and less selfish I, Me, Mine thinking.


But without great mentors who gave unselfishly, and without fear of hiring those better than you, how many out there understand any of this? 


Or want to understand this?


Are there even mentors today in what has been reduced to a DIY world and robbed of enjoying and learning from teamwork?



 


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