Rethinking a shared future: age irrelevant in innovation and leadership

8 Oct 2020
Peta Ashworth and scholars
Professor Peta Ashworth with Liveris Academy Scholars

The principles of an age-friendly university are in action at the University of Queensland (UQ), where high-achieving students from the Andrew N Liveris Academy for Innovation and Leadership put their heads together with a group of older people from the Council on the Ageing (COTA) Queensland to plan a mutually beneficial and sustainable future.

Opening the workshop, and recognising the broad range of skills, experiences and disciplines present, Academy Director Professor Peta Ashworth stressed the value of co-design and mutual learning.

“We want to have a conversation that connects the generations, moves them away from isolation into an informal approachable network,” said Professor Ashworth.

“This can take place virtually and on campus, as we look forward to our new collaborative space in the Andrew N. Liveris Building.”

In a conversation taking on even more relevance during COVID 19 restrictions, stereotypes took a tumble in the first few minutes of introductions.

Academy students – Liveris Scholars – spoke about how young people don’t enjoying conducting life via online video-conferencing platform Zoom all the time.

The Scholars said they missed studying on campus and having face-to-face engagements with peers and faculty.

Conversely, their older counterparts had embraced the digital world.

Mark Tucker-Evans, Chief Executive of COTA Queensland, urged the group to seize the moment, to engage in recognising strengths, confirming ideals and sharing perspectives on sustainability and digital transformation.

He said they should tap into the compassion, lived experience and cognitive agility of older people.

“Leveraging our expertise as older thinkers is vital as Scholars push the edge in realising innovation and leadership,” he said.

This intergenerational group is looking to continue working together, modelling better listening and true collaboration, as well as practising the intellectual agility that characterises innovation and leadership thinking.

Scholars Simeon Gover and Tori Barnes are leading the project and are aiming high.

“We want to mix up the generations, making the most of disruption we’ve all experienced, to ultimately bring about new practices and norms which prioritise sustainability,” they said.

In the pipeline are co-authored papers, blogs, a Q&A panel and new physical and virtual spaces for idea-sharing to profile the age-friendly and inclusive approach that the Liveris Academy and UQ are spearheading.

As UQ alumnus and Liveris Academy benefactor Andrew Liveris, former Chairman and CEO of The Dow Chemical Company and member of The Australian Government’s National COVID-19 Coordination Commission said recently in his Wake-up call to shake-up humanity.

“It doesn’t matter how old you are, leaders need to emerge to create institutions for the 21st century”.

In the four or five-years Liveris says it will take for these leaders to emerge, Liveris Academy Scholars and COTA Queensland will be proof of the great need for, and benefits from, intergenerational collaboration for leaders of all ages.

Led by Professor Nancy Pachana, the UQ Age Friendly University Initiative seeks to better recognise unrealised potential and opportunities for engagement with older cohorts (including alumni) and offer strategic and generative intergenerational contact opportunities.