You'll Miss the Baby Boomers When They're Gone

The other day, I told my 13-year-old son to take those damn thingies out of his ears, put away the iPod and pay attention. When he did, grudgingly, I suggested that we go buy his mom some bling for her birthday.

He skewered me with a censorious eye.

"Don’t say that," he mumbled.

"What? I can’t hear you when you mumble."

"Don’t say bling."

"Isn’t that a cool word?" I asked.

"Not when you say it," he mumbled.

The boy thought he was putting me in my place, but what he doesn’t understand is that I’m a baby boomer; therefore, by definition, everything I do or say is cool.

And furthermore, I know everything about everything.

I know that pop music peaked with Sly and the Family Stone.

I know that Levi’s and Wranglers are the only real jeans; everything else is ersatz.

I know that phones should ring, not play the opening bars of "Bohemian Rhapsody."

And in my business, journalism, I know that you should be able to sing a good headline to the tune of "Camptown Races," that there are exactly four kinds of leads, that editors should never let writers see them sweat, and that short words and paragraphs are better than long ones.

The question is, when I retire to Galaxy O’ Golf, who at CIO will possess all this incredibly valuable knowledge? As obnoxious and spoiled as we boomers are, we actually do know something about running things. We should. We’ve been running just about everything—including the country—for decades. (Of course, many young folk think we’ve done a rotten job. But who cares what they think? They’re kids. What do they know?)

Boomers, like the dinosaurs we increasingly resemble, must eventually exit the stage to make room for new performers. But if the new guys don’t want to see their show close quickly (and to bad reviews), they’d better figure out how to get the knowledge out of our heads and into theirs. Or at least into their databases. This is the subject of our knowledge management story on Page 60, "Beating the Boomer Brain Drain Blues" (doo-dah, doo-dah), by Senior Writer Susannah Patton. Right now, according to a recent AARP study, more than 60 percent of U.S. companies are bringing back retirees as contractors or consultants. Because they can’t run their businesses without them. Because they didn’t think (or know how) to capture their knowledge before they walked out the door.

Just imagine your old boss coming back to tell you what to do and how to do it.

A nightmare, yes?

Better hop on that KM train right now. Or do you think that the knowledge we boomers possess is already antiquated and liable to become even more irrelevant as time goes by? You’re wrong, of course, but if you want to argue about it, drop me a line.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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