The Intergenerational World: Why bridging the divide between old and young is key to a sustainable future

By Guest Contributor Kengo Sakurada

Author of Bushido Capitalism, Kengo Sakurada, explains how the human species has evolved and what the next human species will be.

It’s human nature to trust people more who resemble us – people who physically look like us, sound like us and, indeed, remind us of ourselves. But overcoming that deep-seated instinct is the only way we can create teams that are truly diverse and inclusive, and that extends to age too. 

On account of an aging population, multigenerational workforces are more common today than ever before in history, and yet we’re still struggling to figure out how best to leverage the power and potential of a working population that spans generations; how best to bridge that demographic gap.

Bushido, the ancient values of the Samurai, can be our guide. It was originally written as the code of moral principles that the samurai were required to observe, but considered through the lens of our modern world, it can help us to be more responsible, ethical and better leaders.

Bushido has long been enshrined in Japanese culture but is rarely referenced in the West, and I believe it should be. I believe we can use its teachings to intelligently design businesses that can deliver value for the common good of everyone in society.

Bushido teaches us that compassion, respect, honesty, honour, and loyalty can all be practiced in abundance between one person and another, regardless of whether those two humans were born on the same day and in the same year, or several decades apart. 

If we can navigate the multigenerational world and appreciate the power of connection and collaboration between different generational cohorts, we stand to gain an immeasurable amount. A team of different generations is a team of different perspectives, different assets, and different strengths. 

There is unique value—indeed, beauty—in a workforce that is increasingly diverse. It is our duty to leverage this power for the greater good.

Rather than reducing members of a certain generation to a simplistic label – millennial or baby boomer, perhaps – let’s appreciate everyone for the qualities that they bring to the table. Most importantly, perhaps, let’s encourage open communication between people, and particularly between individuals of different ages.

To build a truly sustainable future, we must learn from past mistakes and anticipate and solve the problems of tomorrow. We can do so by engaging and encouraging those who have witnessed change over time, as well as those able to provide a fresh perspective.

The wisdom, maturity, and experience that the oldest members of the workforce possess, coupled with the energy, creativity, and dynamism that the youngest display, may well prove to be far more powerful than we can imagine. 

Particularly as we embark on a future that’s fast paced and frequently disorientating, let’s celebrate this collaboration between new and old, young, and ageing, impulsive and curious, rational, and knowledgeable. 

Finally, let’s all embrace what’s unfamiliar and learn from those who don’t resemble us. Diversity is what helps us grow, what challenges us and what forces us to reach beyond the parameters of our comfort zones. Being a member of a multigenerational workforce is perhaps the greatest development opportunity for any professional anywhere.


KENGO SAKURADA is the CEO of Sompo Holdings, a large mulitinational insurance company headquartered in Japan. He is a prolific international speaker and is passionate about sustainability, ethical governance and using technology for the wellbeing of all.  



Suggested Reading

In 2020, the world was rocked by the sudden and indiscriminate spread of Covid-19. But for all the damage caused – lives lost, economies roiled and jobs eradicated – it also created opportunities for individuals and businesses to pause and reflect. Bushido Capitalism explores the ways in which this forced interlude has allowed us to reflect on the effects of a Great Acceleration of the last two decades and to critically evaluate where we should go next.

Guided by updated values of Bushido, which have long been enshrined in Japanese culture but are rarely referenced in the West, this book presents ways in which we can use this current inflection point to become more responsible, ethical and sustainably minded citizens and business leaders. It underscores the importance of collaboration, humility and realism, but also of confidence, ambition and creativity. it demonstrates that businesses, particularly in a complex and polarised world, can be a force for the common good of society – if run the right way.

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