Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dressing down/Aging Down

One of the themes of my new book on Generation Change is that we need to "age down" our organizations...not ignore the wisdom of the eldest, but understand that we need a lower mean age of board, staff, management, etc.

Age down, and dress down, too. Well, in some situations at least...and some that may surprise you.

Two examples: One from this past weekend, and one from the AP newswire.

First, real life. Chris and I went to a terrific Valentine's Pops Concert put on by our local symphony this past Saturday. Much fun.

Back in the day, Chris and I were season ticket holders at the symphony. It was our "date night"--8 evenings of dinner and a concert a year, and much anticipated by both of us. But, as time passed, first we needed to drive kids to their own Saturday night activities, and soon there was competition for cars as drivers licenses were earned; we drifted away from the symphony. Our concert nights were traded in for things that we could do with our kids as they got older: Broadway shows, visiting musical groups like Chanticleer, Wynton Marsalis, or Spyro Gyra.

All of which leads up to the story of Saturday night....I bet it's been a decade or more since we went to our local symphony. So, as we got ready to go, I looked at my collared shirt and khakis outfit and worried that I would be under dressed. I suggested to Chris that I wear a jacket and she said I'd be fine. I disagreed, since "everyone wore coats and ties to the symphony."

Her answer: "You're showing your age."

Chris was right. The audience was what you'd expect: we were on the youngish side of the mean age. Perhaps 1,000 people there and I saw....three ties, maybe four. No suits. Lots of cargo pants, khakis and sweaters; even jeans. My recollection of the dress "code" was a decade out of sync with reality. And, I was relieved. I HATE ties. (I think it comes from a boarding school background where we had to wear ties everywhere but the shower. But that's another story.)

As a nice follow-up, an article showed up in today's paper.(this copy is from another newspaper, but the story is the same one). It concerns a dress code fight in senior citizen retirement communities. And, its an excellent example of how nonprofits are going to need to adjust their services as generations change.

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