I went to hear a talk from the famous heme researcher, Harvey Lodish, at Childrens Hospital Boston, Harvard. His work was amazing and passionate. His work was great, but that’s not what got me. What got me, was his recognition to the young researchers he’s worked with. The best part was that at the end of his talk, he told the audience (or rather directed it to his fellow PIs), the credit goes to his young group (postdocs, students, techs). To summarize, he said the best science comes from the younger scientists daring enough take on the challenges, where the older scientists said it can’t be done.
I’m actually one of those individuals that is in the middle of Gen X and Gen Y. I’ve been in research management since I was sixteen years old…to those that are recent Gen Y…that was a long time ago. I’ve seen Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Gen Yers all transverse the biomedical research field. Its hard enough to understand the cultural differences amongst the many nationalities that the sciences attracts. Try to put into play the generational differences as well…its practically a nightmare management scenario for a PI.
Ryan Dorsey, “Y-Size” who’s written about generational divides dividing the work area emphasizes the importance of understanding these differences and adjusting to them rather than trying to imbue your own willful management style of your own generation. Everyone will be happier. To adopt this ideology, we need to approach management still on an individual basis. Having one on one’s (regularly scheduled meetings) can show you the points and causes to many of the behavioral trends that can exist within a research group (or any knowledge work group). Dorsey illustrates some tactics to take with Gen-Y, but in my opinion, it’s no difference with any management strategy; manage the individual, not the team (or the generation). So, in essence, stick to a constant scheduled meeting with the individual and ask questions about them. Over time, you’ll start to see that the generational gap is not a gap. Its a set of individuals that happen to be born around the same time and that their unique experiences can add to the lab’s purpose or vision.