When you work around creative and innovative people, the conversation inevitably turns to innovation and youth.
And so it is not unusual for me to ask people I meet, just how do we inspire the next generation about innovation?
Sometimes the answers are pretty standard. But every once in awhile, I hear something so profound I want to share it with a wider audience.
A couple of months ago, I met with George Douglas, general manager of Indiana Beverage Inc., Valparaiso. We got around to this topic. He shared with me a recent experience with elementary students in a class he was teaching for Junior Achievement. What he shared was as moving to him as it was to his class.
Both of us were pretty busy then, but we arranged our schedules to have a conversation. You be the judge, but I think what he told me has the seeds of how we might begin to think differently about innovation and youth.
George was teaching a session about globalization and its impact on our nation and region. He talked of the importance of entrepreneurship and innovation, and the impact of the internet on the spread of ideas. Following the materials JA provided, he assigned the students to work in teams and come up with their own ideas.
You know when you speak to a group, and you can tell they are going through the motions. He sensed that with these kids, and then he had a flash of inspiration. He said, “How many of you have ever heard of Steve Jobs?”
He said, “Every hand shot up.” Then he asked, “How many of you have Apple products that belong to you, like iPads or games?” Just about every hand went up. Then he asked, “How many of you have heard of Bill Gates and Microsoft?” Again, every hand shot up!
He knew he was connecting with these kids, and then he delivered what I regard as the grand slam! He said, “Do you know the innovation and inspiration for Apple was hatched while Steve Jobs was in high school.” He added, “In a few years, you’ll be in high school, and just think of your own ideas that can change the world.”
George told me these kids were probably thinking about recess or lunch. But following his remarks, he saw a transformation. “They started thinking they could come up with something revolutionary.” He said, “The light bulbs went off for all those kids!”
His point: We have seen the introduction of game-changing ideas by people like Steve Jobs, who unfortunately left us too soon, Bill Gates of Microsoft and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook.
Unlike the old business model, where it took years to see new ideas commercialized, this new generation with an appreciation for technology can change the world in a heartbeat! We just need to get them to believe in themselves.