“It’s their future. They should have more of a say in it.” – Futurist Jim Carroll
My oldest son, Willie, turns 30 today. I am overjoyed in his journey; I am in shock at the milestone. How does this happen?
Willie is a marvel of opportunistic thinking, a joy of the explorative mindset. Through several career transitions, all focused on the world around him, he has settled on becoming a drone pilot and ‘location intelligence/spatial information‘ expert – I like to say that he’s building an air force. Willie lives up to my prediction of years past that ‘65% of kids in preschool today will work in a job or career that does not yet exist.’ On the side, he explores the world, builds fascinating things, and shares his kind and enthusiastic attitude with everyone he meets. In October, he will wed the love of his life, Laura Jane (who will be undertaking a Ph.D. in music therapy come the fall.)
As parents, we often do well to observe the world through their eyes. And through Willie, and my other son Tom, I have often tried hard to view what they see. I know one thing for sure as both have worked through their education and careers – they don’t quite understand our generation. They don’t understand our reticence to change, our discomfort with speed, our occasional or frequent inability to grasp the obvious. Growing up with computers and mobile smartphones, gaming devices, and pervasive technology, their minds are always on, their attitude always innovating, and their impatience for slow pervasive in their minds.
Willie’s career has him busy implementing many of the advanced ideas of our age in the world of construction, architecture and building management; much of what he is doing is focused on trying to move a large organization forward with the advanced opportunities that technology brings today. He often shares in the frustration that I encountered some 40 years ago when I first started to try to move the entrenched closed minds of the current time into a vastly different future.
I often talk about this on stage; in the context of Willie’s career, I sometimes tell the story of how his advanced abilities to gather deep insight through technology is often met as a threat by the older generation around him. His air force can capture detailed information – such as the thermographic analysis of a building – in mere minutes, while the older generation uses primitive tools that might do the same in 3 days. The older generation views his skill as a threat; leadership teams should view it as a powerful opportunity.
This issue is everywhere within my client base – if we consider such technologies as robotics, virtual and augmented reality, and 3D printing – the newer generations embrace them while later generations are not always terribly supportive. They view their ideas, technologies, and concepts with distrust and suspicion; I took this on in a recent keynote just this year, as I have for many years.
A wise leader would push reticence, distrust, suspicion, and lagging action out of the way, but all too often, leadership is too timid to embrace younger thinking.
But we should let them have their say.
This generational dynamic will increasingly play out in the workplace and within organizations, and savvy leaders will be those who know how to capitalize on the future opportunity it presents rather than the angst it might cause. I also see this dynamic playing out in the wider world around us. We are surrounded by a generation that demands change, and yet it seems that baby boomers do everything they can to inhibit this change. It plays out in different ways, where generational demand for hope is coming to dominate the action, such as this unique lawsuit in Montana.
It is playing out in the political arena; I am fascinated by the election of Marshall Fox, the young, 25-year-old Congressman from Florida. Famously, he could not afford the down payment to arrange for accommodations on his move to Washington; his financial journey not yet complete, his journey of effecting change through action is mature beyond his years. Watch him and others like him carefully.
Marshall is an inspiration to many of his age and beyond; he is the foundation for a new initiative that aims to bring more like him to the halls of power. I love this line which was just in the news: “We’re not just voting. We’re also running.” – David Hogg, gun safety advocate,
We are seeing this thinking play out in the electrical process everywhere, and we can see it in the direct skirmishes occurring on the front lines of generational change. One impact? Young attitudes toward diversity and quality are running up against the entrenched mindsets of racism, exclusion, and the status quo, often with dramatic impact.
I have long called this next generation “Gen-Connect” – they think differently, act differently, and engage differently. They know the power of connectivity, the action that can be found in rapid collective collaboration, and the opportunity that comes from moving fast. In the business world, they KNOW that things can be done differently, and yet are all too often frustrated by the dispirited inaction of the baby boomer generation.
It’s about time that we get out of their way, and let them determine their destiny.
After all, it’s THEIR future. We will, tomorrow, only be mere observers within it.
These are some of the things I think about on the occasion of my oldest son’s 30th birthday.
Happy Birthday, Willie! It’s your world and your future, and I am overjoyed at the mindset of change and opportunity that you bring to it!