Generation Hack: Breaking the telecom innovation age code 

Spotlight Series

by Isabelle Paradis, President of HOT TELECOM

In the shadows of the digital revolution, the telecom industry stands at a crossroads. It faces a pressing imperative: to foster a culture that not only attracts the energy of youth but also retains the wisdom of its veterans. There is no doubt about it, we are witnessing a skills gap that threatens to grow wider as the baby boomer generation edges towards retirement. Meanwhile, the younger generation, native speakers in the digital dialect of AI, 5G, and IoT, are not stepping in quickly enough to close this gap. 

This is not a call for a coup to usher in the new guard at the expense of the old. The narrative that needs to be embraced is one of complement. Imagine a future where the telecom industry is as innovative with its workforce as it is with its technology. So it is time to stop talking and start acting and here are some disruptive ideas of how it can be done. 

Cross-generational think tanks 

Picture this: A tech-savvy 22-year-old proposes an AI-driven solution to optimise network traffic. Her idea is brilliant but raw. Across the table, a telecom veteran with three decades under his belt sees the idea’s potential. He’s not here to gatekeep; he’s here to refine. Together, they polish the idea into a market-ready innovation that could only be born from such a fusion of past and future. 

How powerful would such partnership be! Young tech talents joining forces with veterans to co-develop technologies using AI and machine learning to optimise network capacities or enhance cybersecurity measures for example. These are true collaborations that would leverage distinct perspectives into robust innovations. 

The gamification of innovation 

The telecom industry should take a leaf out of the tech industry’s playbook and transform innovation into a competitive sport – literally. Imagine innovation labs as competitive sport – where mixed-age teams duke it out in hackathons.  

In this environment, novel ideas are rigorously tested and refined, with the most promising fast-tracked for development. Such a dynamic approach not only accelerates innovation but also democratises it, allowing the best solutions to emerge based on merit rather than seniority. This new frontier of telecom, driven by competitive collaboration, has the potential to redefine the industry’s approach to innovation and progress. 

Incentivising innovation across ages 

To truly integrate, telecom companies must obliterate the traditional hierarchy that sorts employees. Instead, imagine a world where projects are staffed by capability, not by counting gray hairs or Snapchat followers. 

But for this to become a reality, there needs to be a radical shift in the corporate ethos. Companies like SpaceX and Apple have cultivated environments where innovation is age-agnostic, driven by a shared mission. Telecom companies must cultivate this same mindset, creating roles and teams based not on seniority, but on skill and creative synergy. 

Policy Push: Government as catalyst 

It’s time for governments to step into the ring and spice things up. Governments around the globe should incentivise telecom giants to break down not only gender barriers, but age barriers too. This could be through tax incentives for companies demonstrating genuine age diversity or through stricter regulations that require evidence of age-inclusive practices. 

Moreover, there’s a space for venture capital here too. Imagine a government-backed VC fund specifically aimed at supporting telecom start-ups that demonstrate effective age-inclusive strategies. Such measures would not only encourage innovation, but would also make it a normative part of the telecom industry’s DNA. 

A call to action to unite 

In this context, the messaging from the C-suites needs to be clear: telecoms is no country for old men or young guns alone – it is a place where experience and enthusiasm unite. Companies must architect platforms for cross-pollination of ideas, where innovation is the currency and age is rendered irrelevant. This means fostering flexible work policies, inclusive recruitment strategies, and a culture that celebrates knowledge-sharing. 

The industry’s willingness to embrace a cross-generational workforce will dictate not just its immediate future, but its role in shaping the global communications landscape. Let the telecom industry be not just a conduit for calls and data, but a beacon of inclusive growth. It’s time for telecom to dial into its most underleveraged asset – its human capital, across all generations. 

Join Isabelle at Submarine Networks EMEA, where she’ll be interviewing the President of the SubOptic Association and the Chief Product Officer of Aqua Comms live on stage! Get your ticket now!

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