Turbulent Retirement, Positive Aging
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Consider what you think you know about aging and retirement. Those words often conjure up ideas of failing health, loneliness, and dependency. But Elizabeth Isele, Founder and CEO at The Global Institute for Experienced Entrepreneurship is here to tell you to its time to shift your perspective. Not only are people who work longer healthier, on the whole, but the so-called Silver Tsunami is also the scaffolding for the change we need in how we work.
[00:00:08.130] – Rob Brodnick
Welcome to the Positive Turbulence Podcast, stories from the Periphery. Here we journey to the edge to talk to turbulators about their experiences creating positive change. Hi, I’m Rob Brodnick, your co-host. Consider what you think you know about aging and retirement. Those words often conjure up ideas of failing health, loneliness and dependency. But Elizabeth Isele founder and CEO at the Global Institute for Experienced Entrepreneurship is here to tell you it’s time to shift your perspective. Not only are people who work longer, healthier on the whole, the so-called silver tsunami is the scaffolding for the change we need in how we work.
[00:00:45.240] – Karyn Zuidinga
Hi, I’m Karyn Zuidinga, your co-host. Elisabeth points out that we need to start thinking about experience as currency. It’s a competitive advantage for those over 50 starting new businesses as well as for companies who find a way to support and keep working with people instead of retiring them. She uses the term absurd for the organization who discounts that value. Elizabeth is vibrant and passionate. She’s inspiring.
Coming up, some deep wisdom on the value of the leadership that older people bring in their ability to innovate and manage change, as well as the marvelous creativity available there. But first, a word from our sponsors.
[00:01:22.400] – Sponsor Message
The Positive Turbulence podcast is brought to you by AMI an innovation learning community that is celebrating 40 years of supporting innovation and creativity for organizations and individuals. Also, we’d like to thank Mack Avenue Music Group as a contributing sponsor. To hear our theme song, Late Night Sunrise and other great music, visit MackAvenue.com.
[00:01:47.870] – Rob Brodnick
So I’m I’m really curious, Elizabeth, do you want to give us just a little bit of like orientation to your background and maybe a little bit of of the current work that you’re doing? I’ve read a bunch of it and it sounds really exciting, but would like it if you could give us little bit of grounding on some of some the work you’re doing.
[00:02:07.310] – Elizabeth Isele
You probably know or have read that for many years, over 30 years, I was a publisher and editor in publishing.
[00:02:16.310] – Karyn Zuidinga
I didn’t know that. What what form of publishing and where were you editor?
[00:02:20.780] – Elizabeth Isele
I was at Harper and Row in New York, which is now Harper Collins. But no, to your point, Rob, A few years ago, when I started this new entrepreneurial endeavor, I thought, you know, I wanted to see if there’s a real pattern of this in my life or was I just sort of bouncing from one thing to another after I left New York. And what I realized that in publishing as an editor, your helping authors find their voice.
And what I’m doing now is helping people over 50 find their voice and not just finding their voice, but being heard. And the new economic engines that are driving social and economic prosperity worldwide. So it’s it’s that I was delighted to be able to tie what I did for many years together with what I’m doing moving forward and realized there was that common theme, helping people, empowering them by helping them find their voice.
[00:03:20.480] – Karyn Zuidinga
And could you tell me a little bit more about that, Elizabeth? That sense of finding voice? It seems to me that unless you’re over 50 yourself, you may not think of a need for people who are over 50 to find a voice because they got it by now, don’t they?
[00:03:38.750] – Elizabeth Isele
No they don’t. In many respects, when we work with people over 50 who want to be entrepreneurs and people say all the time, well, what’s the biggest obstacle for them? And they just automatically assume it’s raising capital to launch business. And I said, no, that’s the easy part. I said the most challenging part for people over 50 is having the confidence that they can do this.
So what we do is we have a wonderful workshop called the Experience Incubator where we work with people and help them translate their life and work experience into what they want to do next. And so that’s empowering their voice by going back to showing them how they’ve been thinking and acting entrepreneurially all their lives. They’ve just never identified as an entrepreneur. And many people find the term totally intimidating. They think of an entrepreneur, as you know, Steve Jobs or some tech guru.
[00:04:39.450] – Rob Brodnick
Yeah, a brilliant twenty-five year-old who’s into technology or something like that.
[00:04:43.810] – Elizabeth Isele
Exactly. And what I say is also, you know, for we’ve never had this kind of longevity. We’ve never had 15, 20, 25 years past the retirement age. So we are all entrepreneurs and thinking about what we’re going to do next, what we’re going to do. And it’s not just individuals. It’s what’s society going to do with this? What corporations are going to do with this potential? What governments are going to do with potential, because everybody is always decrying the fact that this demographic surge is going to kill everybody and kill finances and economies and health care systems. And our position is, no, it’s not going to kill it. In fact, it’s going to underwrite it.
There’s simply not enough young people coming in to underwrite either the workforce or health care system. And plus the fact that if, there’s a lot of data on this, this isn’t just some figment of my imagination that people working longer stay healthier, longer. And so they are going to be less a drain on the health care system than if everybody was allowed to push them out the door into despair and then they do become sick. So it has many social as well as economic benefits.
[00:06:05.510] – Karyn Zuidinga
That is a cool thing to talk about just in and of itself. But I want to just back up just a teeny bit and just clarify who is the “we” and who is the “our” that you’re talking about here? What organization is it that is running these workshops and helping these seniors?
[00:06:19.940] – Elizabeth Isele
It’s our organization, an organization that I founded and am CEO of. It’s called GIEE, the Global Institute for Experienced Entrepreneurship.
[00:06:30.130] – Karyn Zuidinga
And you founded that…
[00:06:31.770] – Elizabeth Isele
Back in 2012. We work with partners around the world, but we create some of our curriculum and workshop curriculum at Babson College. We cannot take something that we’ve created at Babson College into Africa or Japan, or Australia even, and say, you know, implement this program. It has to be customized for culture and for economic level and for education level. Wherever we go, we work only with local partners because we build these and we build this movement from the ground up in countries.
And when we go into a country, we introduce it by having a cross-sector forum. This is a forum that I designed to raise awareness of do people in your community understand the economic potential of this demographic at these forums? We bring in people from the private sector, the government sector, the health sector, the education sector, and really quiz them on what is happening with the demographic in their community. Do they see this as an opportunity? If they see it as an opportunity what can they do about it? We call these action tanks. I don’t like think tanks because it’s just everybody around the room talking about how wonderful they are, and this is their opinion and you get absolutely no place. So…
[00:07:53.290] – Rob Brodnick
Let’s turn it to action. I love it.
[00:07:54.790] – Elizabeth Isele
Yes! So we have action tanks and nobody leaves the room without making a commitment. No matter how small it is about what they’re going to do next to raise the positive aspects of aging. People love it.
[00:08:09.220] – Karyn Zuidinga
I love that idea.
[00:08:11.220] – Elizabeth Isele
They recognise you have to demonstrate that it’s a win win for everybody. We can’t come in and say this is good for people. They would say, well, isn’t that nice? But if we can say this is not only good for people, but this is good for business and this is good for society, then we can get them to commit to taking some kind of action to advance us.
[00:08:32.250] – Karyn Zuidinga
Wow. When I think about a senior or someone who left one long time job and going into what is often called semi-retirement, they often start a consulting business. And I’m wondering if you could just either help that image for me or maybe disabuse me of that notion. Help me understand what kind of businesses are the people that you’re talking to, starting.
[00:08:54.580] – Elizabeth Isele
Consulting business is kind of a fallback position when they think that’s all they’re capable of. The people that I work with start everything from micro businesses to major technology businesses. One of the many advantages that they have is not only their experience, but the number of people they have met throughout their life and work. So it’s really showing them how you don’t have to do this alone. One of the first things we recommend they create is a brain trust, which all the people who know what they don’t know who can help them. And if they have an idea that they would like to start a business, take it before your brain trust. And your brain trust cannot be friends or family members because they’re not going to be as ruthless as you need. And you need people to really tell you if this idea is going to work or not going to work. And it’s all different.
Seniors are starting all different kinds of businesses. Many of them are starting businesses with younger people. And we encourage that kind of intergenerational work because certainly in the United States, entrepreneurship has really slumped in the past few years because kids graduating from college, can’t afford to take the risk. I mean, they have so much college debt. They have to get a job where they start repaying this immediately. So we’re showing them that if they team up with this experienced senior, that really mitigates the risk. And it’s also a way for the senior to be brought up to speed on all the technology skills that they may not have. A lot of them do. People keep saying seniors are technology adverse, well, they’re not! They’re the fastest growing demographic in many areas of the Internet.
[00:10:40.180] – Karyn Zuidinga
Do you have an example or a favourite story of someone that you worked with who created a business that was, you know, maybe somewhat surprising or atypical… if there’s typical.
[00:10:52.690] – Elizabeth Isele
Well, that’s a thing. There is no typical. One of my favourite stories is a woman who was laid off in her 50s from a tech company. She was online searching for job opportunities and then just took a break from that and went in, to, I don’t know whether it’s eBay or some selling site online and saw that they were selling mannequins. She said, I’ve always wanted one of those for my garden. And so she called the guy up, said, I’d like to buy your mannequin. And he said, Well, that’s great, but you have to take all 50.
[00:11:28.620] – Karyn Zuidinga
[00:11:29.260] – Elizabeth Isele
And he said, I don’t care what you do with them. I’m not selling one, you’ve got to take them all. So she took them all. And this is the prototypical startup for a senior from a garage. So she cleared out at her garage, put in these 50 mannequins. And today she has this phenomenal business that is nationwide where she refurbishes mannequins and resells them.
[00:11:54.890] – Karyn Zuidinga
[00:11:54.890] – Elizabeth Isele
She collects them and now she has contractors working all over the United States that collect them. Department stores, for example, used to have to pay to get these things carted away because they’re not biodegradable. And she called them up, she called Nordstrom’s, Saks Fifth Avenue in San Francisco and said, I’ll take them for free.
[00:12:14.910] – Karyn Zuidinga
And they’re like, thank you.
[00:12:16.790] – Elizabeth Isele
So she got all this inventory. And of course, it is guiding people across the United States to do that as well. She now has this enormously successful business plus then there’s always a side benefit. It’s not just the economic benefit. She won a prize from the EPA for saving something like I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of pounds of product from landfills
[00:12:43.800] – Karyn Zuidinga
Isn’t that cool?
[00:12:46.430] – Elizabeth Isele
It’s a typical intergenerational business. She didn’t know how to set up an online business. She brought in a younger person to handle all the technology aspects. And now as was partners, they have this booming business. Called Mannequin Madness.
[00:13:00.250] – Rob Brodnick
That is amazing.
[00:13:00.990] – Karyn Zuidinga
Mannequin Madess. Oh, I just want to take a moment. That’s awesome! Now, did she ever put that mannequin in her garden?
[00:13:09.740] – Rob Brodnick
I’m curious, is it is it more like an art work product or does it go back to department stores, a refurbished kind of way?
[00:13:17.510] – Elizabeth Isele
Oh, no. It’s very much a viable product. Mannequins can be very expensive. She advertises them. You know, it’s like a used mannequin. But if a used mannequin has only had, you know, clothing or jewelry or something draped on it. So it’s not like it’s been run outside and through the mud. And if there’s any parts missing, she refurbishes it. Again, it’s this recycling but then she can sell it at a much lower cost to other organizations.
[00:13:46.190] – Rob Brodnick
[00:13:46.760] – Elizabeth Isele
It’s a brilliant business idea.
[00:13:49.280] – Karyn Zuidinga
Not typical for the image in my head. Right? Because I know a lot of people who, like you say, kind of by default because they don’t know what else they could do. And they want to use their experience to do something.
[00:14:05.120] – Elizabeth Isele
But to me, that’s absolutely pathetic. It’s not proactive. They should be doing something much more proactive. Exactly to your point, there was a fellow here on the East Coast who was 65, and he kept going back to his class reunions at Cornell, asking people — and he was in technology and laid off — and he kept going back to his class reunions and asking people what they were doing today. And he said, 95 per cent of them would pull out their wallet, take out this business card that looked like it had been in his wallet for ten years and just was decrepit. And pull it out, say, well, I’m consulting. And he said that that is such an enormous waste of your experience.
He started his own business with a lot of these people that were his age in technology and some of them were in their 70s. And he created online tour guides, sort of like those very heavy books you carried. Different city guides, culture guides in that city. And it was all done online. And it was a brilliant idea. But that all came from his being just horrified that his colleagues just had this consulting business card, which was going nowhere.
[00:15:15.940] – Karyn Zuidinga
Wow, that’s inspiring. And just taking a beat here, if someone wants to find out how to, you know, connect with the Global Institute for, sorry, Experienced Entrepreneurship, how do they find you in their town or in their city?
[00:15:33.510] – Elizabeth Isele
We’re online for the most part. We have people speaking about this all over the world to emphasize that the first step can be very simple and it doesn’t have to be some world changing product. We have a part of the website that is called Curiously Clever Solutions. You can tell I still have my love of language. And on that section of the Web site, we talk about the simplicity of ideas. And you’re really as an entrepreneur, you’re just solving a problem. And we really highlight a woman in rural Wisconsin who was barn burned down in the middle of winter and her cows had just calved. And she had all these baby calves who were threatened by frostbite, particularly in their ears, were the most vulnerable part. So she created these cow muffs.Ear muffs for her cows. She saved her entire heard of baby calves with these wild, crazy earmuffs. And I said, you know, that’s not a, you know, something that’s earth shaking, but definitely key to her survival as a farmer and key to her cows’ survival.
[00:16:36.950] – Karyn Zuidinga
And they’re adorable! I’m looking at the photo right now and they are adorable, crazy cow with these like it like years covered with, like mitts. Like pink. Imagine a calf, a beautiful little Holstein calf with pink mittens on its ears. Yeah. It’s adorable and wonderful.
[00:16:59.170] – Elizabeth Isele
Other organizations spread the word about us because we work with the Federal Reserve Bank in their growing entrepreneurial communities, particularly in rural America. We have been working with them to bring in this demographic and how do they can help boost rural economies across the US.
[00:17:15.570] – Karyn Zuidinga
That’s wonderful. And the website is Experieneurship.com.
[00:17:19.600] – Rob Brodnick
Views of aging really are different across different kinds of cultures and societies. I’m curious about how your experiences in maybe a place where aging is a venerated type of thing versus a culture where aging is, you know, just go away. How does it play in those different views of aging?
[00:17:36.670] – Elizabeth Isele
Even where aging is venerated, it’s a venerated in a way that people think they should care for their elders. People don’t recognize what the elder can actually contribute to their life. Those societies are thinking, well, how do I take care of my parents and what can I do? And as I say, you know, your parents can very well be taking care of you and the rest of your community if you let them. Some societies like Japan, where they have always venerated their elders, but again, venerated them in the sort of distant way: okay, you stay here warm and comfortable and I’ll take care of you. A lot of this is driven absolutely by necessity because Japan is in a horrible economic position, because the birth rate has fallen dramatically, much worse than many areas of the world, and their older generations are growing equally dramatically.
I was over there with the State Department on a tour helping them understand older entrepreneurship, helping Japan understand it. It ended up the prime minister actually now has a program called agenomics where he is encouraging people to find ways to help the seniors contribute. Instead of pushing them off and taking care of them. Japan has one of the most creative and one of the most dynamic intergenerational business incubators I’ve ever seen in the world. And it’s really phenomenal institute and very active, very proactive, incredible relationships between generations. Very exciting things are happening in unexpected places.
[00:19:10.670] – Rob Brodnick
That’s so cool. I’m curious, is there a culture or a country that you’ve gone into where this is happening naturally or does everyone get a boost from the work that you do?
[00:19:20.190] – Elizabeth Isele
Last month [November 2019] I was at a global women leaders conference in Reykjavik, Iceland. These were incredibly powerful women leaders of government, leaders of corporations, all different kinds of work, private and also nonprofit work. It always amazes me and in a group, you know, that you would consider really enlightened about some of these economic issues. The people that we’re hosting at Chatham House with whom I work as a fellow, had proposed that they do a session at this forum on the silver economy. And they were a little bit skeptical because they’re mostly all about equal pay and, you know, equal representation of women in leadership conference. But they did allow us to come and do this presentation. They were seriously doubtful about who might show up. Well, I was not at all doubtful, because I just know that this really resonates on a unique and original level and a very realistic, pragmatic level.
So the day of our forum workshop, the room started filling up and filling up and filling up. And I thought, you know, it’s not going to stop. You’d better close the door here. At these workshops, which are similar to the global forums that I do. I always ask people in the beginning to introduce themselves and say what brought them to this session. And the title of this particular session was Think aging is a problem? Think again! Every single woman in that room said because she had never heard of something like this about aging and the potential of aging, economic, social potential. It’s one of the most original concepts I’ve ever experienced at a forum like this. She said I just had to find out what it was all about and how I might take it back to my country. There are [even] women there from members of parliament, from Afghanistan. She came up to me as well. To me, this is not rocket science. It’s just common sense. But I’ve learned that people really don’t understand it like that. And even this woman from Afghanistan’s parliament said, you know, what really struck me here that I hadn’t really focused on is the only segment of the population the Taliban will listen to today is older women.
[00:21:47.720] – Rob Brodnick
[00:21:47.730] – Karyn Zuidinga
[00:21:48.210] – Elizabeth Isele
It was just so striking. She said, I see a tremendous opportunity to go back into some of these rural areas of Afghanistan with these elder women leaders to whom the Taliban will actually listen, to see what kind of change we can create in Afghanistan. And it’s really it’s those kind of moments of awareness that, yeah, you realize, you know, why you’re traveling around the world like a lunatic is because you can ignite this idea. And somebody said now she’s going home and she’s working on this. And I know it’s because she’s phenomenal that it will be a phenomenal project in Afghanistan.
[00:22:26.230] – Rob Brodnick
Oh, that’s amazing. Love it.
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[00:23:00.790] – Karyn Zuidinga
I thought I’ve been balancing or trying to balance, as you’ve been sharing that story about the kind of impact this change of mind could have. Is the other idea that I hear a lot from women who are over 50. Is that idea of invisibility. And that idea that you suddenly sort of disappear in the world. Your influence and your experience and your wisdom is discounted. And I’m sure it’s the same for men. I just hear about the story from women.
[00:23:32.730] – Elizabeth Isele
It just follows a pattern of their opinion being discounted their entire lives. And now as they get older, it’s exacerbated because they are older. And so they have the double. They have ageism plus bias because they’re a woman. We’re starting a new project. I’ve been invited to participate in a project at the Boston Museum of Science where the director of education programs for the museum asked if I could help design a program for the museum on women and power and influence and how that has changed throughout their lives and what they’re doing to combat it. And what is their next? What is their next? And how can they achieve it?
And it’s really exciting. I’m really looking forward to this because, number one, for the Museum of Science to be doing something like this. This is not just a cultural thing, this is the science of power and influence and how it changes its impact throughout your lifetime and how we can turn that around. So it has a positive impact after 50. So it’s when, again, to that point that I despise think-tanks, but I love action tanks. And this will definitely be and action tank. Gather women in small groups of different ages talking about their experience. And again, the the Boston Museum of Science is willing to bring in women from around the world, from, you know, all different cultures as well as all different economic levels. It’s going to be fascinating. Absolutely fascinating.
[00:25:06.310] – Rob Brodnick
Are you advisory to the process?
[00:25:08.450] – Elizabeth Isele
Yes, Yes. I helped design it.
[00:25:10.550] – Rob Brodnick
Oh, wonderful. That’s going to be a lot of fun.
[00:25:14.220] – Elizabeth Isele
It’s going to be wonderful. And so we’re starting that up next spring.
[00:25:18.200] – Karyn Zuidinga
Wonderful. That’s wonderful. So if you’re a person who’s maybe looking at retirement or entering a new phase in your career in that fifty, fifty-five plus zone and you don’t know where to begin, where where would you tell them to start looking?
[00:25:31.940] – Elizabeth Isele
Just as a resource for themselves in terms of thinking differently about this?
[00:25:36.280] – Karyn Zuidinga
Yeah, yeah. Thinking differently about this. Every time I go to a social event these days there seems to be three or four people who are on the cusp of retirement. Sometimes they have a thought about maybe what’s going to come next. But mostly I’m just like getting a lot of blank, right? A lot of like I I don’t know. And there’s fear there. And they’ll throw out the well, I thought I’d start a consulting business like that that comes out that default answer. Next time I go to a social event and someone comes up with that answer, what can I tell them? Hey, why don’t you check out blank?
[00:26:08.240] – Elizabeth Isele
Unfortunately, they’re not that many programs out there. And that’s why this is such a challenge. That’s why I’m so excited about the Museum of Science program.That’s why I’m excited about the different communities and people that we work with around the world because they’re starting local initiatives that are going to help in this area. One of the first things you could do is just refer them to our website and the work that we’re doing because they need to see that they’re not alone in this kind of thinking. Because there are so few resources. Whenever I speak, it’s really difficult to follow up because people get very excited about what I’m talking about. And I always say I can’t always individually follow up. Every article, every bit of research that I find that supports this idea of the next and the potential of the next, I post on my LinkedIn. And so people know that they can go in there and access these resources because there’s people around the world and small little groups sometimes they call them them Grandmothers or Grandmas Know Best or something. It’s all different kinds of names. They are trying to raise this issue.
The United Nations had a conference in February  in Bangkok that they invited me to and it was all about demographics and aging and demographics and all that kind of data science. And I was invited and I wrote back, you know, cordially saying I think they made a mistake. Because, you know, I’m not a data scientist or demographer. And they said, no, we’re we’re very aware of who you are. We’ve read everything you’ve ever written. And we need someone who’s not a data science or a demographer to come and talk about the positive aspects of aging.
Then they reiterated that at this conference they’re introducing some new research that they have done, which is they are — and this is it comes out of Geneva — they want to change the way we measure aging. So instead of measuring chronological age, which is looking backwards to what you’ve done, they want society to begin measuring the potential of aging. What can we do with these next 20 to 30 years? And what’s the impact of what we can do from the experience that we developed in the first half of our life if we turn that around proactively? What’s the social and economic impact of that? So that to me is very exciting. But that’s a long way of saying there are, like he said, there’s hardly anybody talking about the positive aspects of aging. Starting these all over the world. But they’re not easy to find. And I would just say to these people, stop thinking about consulting and think about how you can turn that into something more proactive. Get out of that default position! The older I get, the bolder I get. And I don’t hesitate to tell people exactly what I think.
[00:29:07.980] – Karyn Zuidinga
I like that. And there’s the aspect that you mentioned earlier that I’d like to loop back to is that the idea that it’s actually better for your health.
[00:29:15.210] – Elizabeth Isele
Oh absolutely. That definitely. There’s a lot of data out there. You look at the horrible thing in England and people are now thinking, well, we should do this. United States, create a Minister of Loneliness.
[00:29:26.330] – Karyn Zuidinga
Yeah, isn’t that sad?
[00:29:29.140] – Elizabeth Isele
Seniors who have been pushed out. Cultures and families get inordinately depressed and isolated and then their health just goes down precipitously. The reverse of that is those that are engaged and healthy are healthy much longer. We’re talking twenty years of extended good health. Ironically, and this is so sad for me because I I look upon this as… to me it’s more of a social endeavor, but I have learned that if I can’t make the economic point, I’ll get nowhere. The insurance companies, not only the insurance but the financial investing people, have suddenly realized that their client is going to be their client for an additional 10, 15, 20 years. And they better hop to in figuring out how to meet that client’s needs because that’s really going to boost their corporate bottom line. Some companies are getting it and other companies are getting it more slowly.
[00:30:23.270] – Karyn Zuidinga
So what does a company do about it? The conversation I was having earlier today before we started talking was around that default position of consulting. The problem of you’ve got someone in your organization, they’ve been there a long time. They’ve got all this experience and now they have to go. And you lose, you lose all that, that well, you called it brain drain somewhere. Like you lose all that brain power. You lose all that experience, all that wisdom. Yes. You need to make space for people to ladder up, to get promoted, to take on new challenges and so on. That cliff at 65 where… where you see bye bye. Okay, bye! Here’s a watch!
[00:31:04.610] – Elizabeth Isele
That’s completely absurd. One company who is beginning to adddress it, and whom I spoke with very early on is Ernst and Young.
[00:31:11.870] – Karyn Zuidinga
Oh, really? Interesting.
[00:31:13.840] – Elizabeth Isele
Because they have, of course, all these entrepreneurial programs. And they invited me to some forum and they were talking about entry level women and mid-level women, what they could do to boost their entrepreneurial intrapreneurship within the company. I said, well what about the older women? They said, well, they’re on their way out. And I said, wait a minute. You’re pushing all this experience out the door, number one.
One of the least publicized data points in the world is that five years prior to retirement, those individuals drop out of the work culture. They are no longer engaged. They are no longer producing, they are no longer contributing to the bottom line of the company. They’re just kind of biding their time until they can leave or until they’re being forced to leave. I said, so you have five years dead zone before they leave. And then after they leave, you have another dead zone. I said, in the meantime, you have taught them how to think entrepreneurially in your business at Ernst and Young. And I said, I can tell you a number of those people are spending their last five years thinking about what kind of business they’re going to start when they leave this company. And I said, I’d like you to raise your hand if you think that that person who is pushed out the door of Ernst and Young is going to come back to you for you to handle their financial whatevers or if they’re going to refer Ernst and Young to the businesses with whom they work. I said, number one, you’ve cut off this revenue stream. That could be enormous if people were starting their own businesses.
And I said, but what you really need to do as a company to be innovative is think about more actively thinking about the entire career arc. Because I said people coming into your company today are going to stay two, three years tops before they move on to something else. So then you’ve got the middle level women who are stuck in the business. I said you have an opportunity to catalyze this experience across generations. You reinvigorate every member of your workforce. And it is increased productivity because again, there’s data out there that demonstrates that a company who really fosters an intergenerational workforce, their productivity goes up 20 percent or more. Even McDonald’s did a study on this and said that wherever they had intergenerational teams in their franchises, those franchises, productivity went up over 20 percent. And so I said it again, it’s you’re shooting yourself in the foot by pushing these people out the door when you have already built in a resource that will remain dedicated, is thrilled to think that you want their opinions to continue. You know, it can be on a part time basis. You don’t have to keep them employed. In fact, they probably don’t want to stay in the office all the time.
[00:34:08.290] – Rob Brodnick
Some of those accommodations and things that we have to kind of change the pattern of work that we do. For example, the long workdays or the constant travel or things that, you know, as you’re considering approaching retirement, these are just lifestyle choices that you no longer want to make. So, what can companies do to help to keep and encourage the older workforce to sort of maintain and not get the brain drain, but also let people enjoy the lives they want to have as they’re approaching retirement? Any thoughts on that?
[00:34:41.560] – Elizabeth Isele
They have to apply some of the same principles of the gig economy to this new kind of retirement economy. To create a flexible work schedule, as many people know from people that have worked offsite with people working off site can be just as productive as someone sitting in a cubicle in an office. So they need to foster more programs like that to keep those people on a flexible schedule. Many of the retirees or pre-retirees are not looking for the same salary, because the other things that they want in life for them them offset monetary aspect of the position.
And some German companies have been doing this very successfully. BMW had a program and then it’s another, I think SAP actually has some programs for sort of like tiered retirement and more and more. They’re not even using the word retirement. It’s just tiered. They’re tiered workforce arrangements. And it’s so smart. It’s so smart. We all know that retirement is never going to be the same again. They’re never coming into a company going to work there for 25 or 30 years and then retire and go play golf. The world is no longer structured that way. Furthermore, nobody is saving enough money so that they could just run off and play golf after retirement.
Suddenly, it’s not just five or 10 years. But if you have 25 or 30 years… The national statistic in America is that the average senior has saved something like fifteen thousand dollars. It’s like, you know, you can buy a car for that. It’s just it’s heartbreaking. But it’s just we’ve got to change these old norms that are just no longer applicable. People need to look at experience as a currency. It’s their experience has real value. It has currency. And it also is a competitive advantage for those companies that want to take advantage of it and incorporate it in their business.
[00:36:45.950] – Rob Brodnick
You know, this makes me think about, you know, we talk a lot about younger generations and we have the millennials and the Gen Z’s and we apply these attributes as if, you know, everyone of age 28 was exactly the same. Right? I think it’s a little overdone, a little overblown. But if we think about the different generations that are aging and we have, for example, the people who were alive during World War II. You know, you have the generation after that. And we’ve heard the meme. OK. Boomer. Right? That’s been all over whatever lately. But there are.
[00:37:23.070] – Elizabeth Isele
[00:37:23.070] – Rob Brodnick
It is terrible. But there are there are some differences in the generations. I’m thinking about I’m I’m somewhere between Gen X and the boomers. I’m in the like the demographic hole. Apparently the year I was born. But, you know, I’m now in my early 50s and thinking about what’s going to happen as I age the concept of retirement or ever stopping is just it’s an illusion. And I think for the younger generations, you know, they kinda have it have shifted in that. So I’m just interested in some of your thoughts about maybe the different generational cohorts that are aging and they see it differently.
[00:38:01.370] – Elizabeth Isele
The cohorts see it differently, but it has little to do with their chronological age. Interestingly enough, I work with people in their 90s who are just as vital and creative as they ever were. And people in their 50s who were just sort of slogging through and not that kind of dynamic. And I think it’s it’s more a mindset. One of the things that we don’t talk about much is the creativity gene. Actually in aging the creativity gene is one of the last genes to age. You remain incredibly creative. You want to play with ideas. You want people to ask you how to help resolve a problem. And it’s the resolution is really based on your creative thinking and your willingness to play with ideas and try different ideas.
One of my favorite quotes of all times from George Bernard Shaw, who of course, is a playwright, but what I love is not just a playewright. He was also one of the founding members of the London School of Economics. And so, you know, economic and the creativity side. And he said, we don’t stop playing because we get old. We get old because we stop playing. So we have to keep playing with ideas. And that keeps us young and vibrant. It really has nothing to do with age. Well, sometimes it does, of course, if you have physical disabilities. But most times it just has to go back to your mindset.
[00:39:33.140] – Rob Brodnick
That mindset is critical.
[00:39:35.050] – Elizabeth Isele
You have to be brave enough to ask a question. And it’s just remarkable, absolutely remarkable what people are doing and companies they’re building. I could go on forever with the stories that I collect from around the world from just that.
[00:39:50.600] – Rob Brodnick
I imagine it’s some of the same principles that we teach young innovators and entrepreneurs around the mindset. You know, how to manage the fears that live inside, you know, what’s the proper perspective on failure? Having a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity. These are all some of those things that really set the entrepreneurial spirit in motion in the young innovator. But it’s the same stuff that working with senior population.
[00:40:16.320] – Elizabeth Isele
The only difference is that often you find with a senior population as they have all those same fears as the younger people, but they don’t have as much time. And so they will actually say to you, you know, I have this idea. If I don’t work on it now will that time ever come up again? So there’s that kind of time pressure that the young people don’t have.
[00:40:38.380] – Rob Brodnick
Great insight. I love that. Love it.
[00:40:39.680] – Elizabeth Isele
We have the same kind of entrepreneurial thinking and acting principles.
[00:40:44.750] – Karyn Zuidinga
Thank you so much.
[00:40:45.650] – Rob Brodnick
Yeah. This has been wonderful. This is just incredible.
[00:40:49.120] – Elizabeth Isele
I get passionate about this and I love talking about it.
[00:40:52.580] – Rob Brodnick
[00:40:54.800] – Karyn Zuidinga
I can’t believe that more has not been done yet. Like now that now that I’m seeing it from this perspective, I’m like, yeah, why the hell is everybody a consultant? That’s pretty boring.
[00:41:07.310] – Elizabeth Isele
Don’t chastize yourself. As I say, just last month [Novembeer 2019] I was at that global women’s leader forum where they were like oh, I never even thought about this. You’re certainly not alone. And the only other thing I would emphasize is you can do this in small steps. Just remind people off those earmuffs. And what a profound difference that made. And you don’t have to change the world. Just by doing your one simple thing. You will be changing it.
[00:41:32.870] – Karyn Zuidinga
[00:41:32.880] – Rob Brodnick
That’s wonderful. Love it.
[00:41:38.630] – Karyn Zuidinga
Thank you so much Elizabeth. It’s been a lovely conversation. I feel like I’ve had a lovely meal.
[00:41:49.850] – Elizabeth Isele
What a great compliment! It’s been my pleasure.
[00:41:56.700] – Karyn Zuidinga
I feel inspired. All right. Thank you so much, Elizabeth.
[00:42:01.290] – Karyn Zuidinga
Thank you to AMI, who have nurtured us indeveloping this podcast, is the source of so many of our guests, and of course, the founder Stan Gryskiewicz is also the author of the original book and dare I say, the elder statesman of Positive Turbulence.
[00:42:14.940] – Rob Brodnick
Stay tuned for our Positive Turbulence moment where Elizabeth points out the benefits of listening to your elders.
[00:42:20.670] – Sponsor Message
AMI as a pioneering, non-profit organization comprised of committed individuals who foster and leverage creativity and innovation in organizations and society. AMI identifies leading edge innovation, shares experiences, sponsors research and recognizes innovation and creative processes. Find out more at AMInnovation.org. And thank you to Mack Avenue Music Group our contributing sponsor, for providing our podcast soundtrack Late Night Sunrise.
[00:42:49.740] – Rob Brodnick
And here’s our Positive Turbulence moment.
[00:42:52.020] – Elizabeth Isele
Someone came up to me after I was speaking and he said, you know, I really get what you said. He said — because this was a young person in his 20s — he said, my grandmother lives in Lithuania. And when I had to move away to develop the company that I’m building. She said, well, you’ve got to find a way to connect. And she did all the research, taught herself how to do Skype and taught him how to do Skype. here’s my 80 year-old grandmother, from Lithuania teaching me to Skype.
[00:43:23.540] – Rob Brodnick
If you want to share a Positive Turbulence moment or otherwise, comment on what you’re hearing, please drop us a line at podcast@PositiveTurbulence.com.
[00:43:31.470] – Karyn Zuidinga
Be sure to tune in next time when we’ll be talking to Mike Moss, Strategy Catalyst for non-profits, and creator of momentum for positive change. He’ll have you rethinking your ideas about your professional association and the value of membership. Head over to Positive Turbulence.com to find out more about us, our wonderful sponsors, Positive Turbulence, our guests, or check out our very cool and very diverse reading, watching and listening to list. Until next time, keep the turbulence positive!
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