Younger generations tend to settle for a highly streamlined social and economic world that does not ask for big decisions or unconventional thinking. This might sound harsh, but bare with me here! Although I say this now, the final conclusion might be quite different. Let`s explore the correlation of today`s youth content with current situation and future challenges. And see what will happen.
Firstly, we need to answer the question what represents today`s youth? Today, 43% of the world’s population is 25 years old or younger.1 It is the first global youth known as generation Y, globalists, millenials, digital youth, and it has the largest and absolute number on global perspectives. They have countless opportunities to realize themselves, to fulfill different (and sometimes opposite) roles within their groups, and endless channels of enormous amount of information that decrease the possibility to recognize true from false and biased from deliberately constricted. That is why there are many cases of general chronic anxiety of this young generation because it is possible to learn and be a lot of things at the same time.2 Additionally, the generation X and Y suffer from two key stumbling blocks: communication gaps and preconceived notions.3 And the generation X is the one that holds leaders` positions today, but not always lead the new generation in accordance with their way of interaction and learning. However, it is incumbent upon them as leaders to ensure that what is asked to be done by youth is relevant, meaningful and valid, and to truly guide and develop the younger generations by practicing transformational and authentic leadership. If that is not the case, they will not have the opportunity to bring the change and innovative thinking since the channels will not be appropriate. That leads to hushed youth that must follow the `old` rules to have opportunities for the conventional success.
On the other hand, the appetites are big, but do we have the stomach for it? Ubiquitous assimilation for avoiding doublethink in this marketing holocaust, was a remark by Henry Bartnes, a substitute teacher in the movie Detachment4, when he tries to explain to his students that they deliberately believe in lies knowing that they are false, inspired by George Orwell`s book 1984. He explains how important it is to find ways to enhance imagination and thinking in a world where images are already done and opinions defined. Otherwise we become double-thinkers – people that can believe that the truth is not one, but two or three opposite sides of the same issue. According to Art Markman, the author of the book Smart thinking, we use a lot of information about how often things happen in the world to make judgments about what we like. The number of times that we came into contact with things reflected how often we were likely to see them and choose.5 That leads to the question who and how determines what we encounter on daily basis? Bigger symbols, bolder letters, shining signs, popping messages, and suggested products are surrounding us without our choice and avoiding the filters we use. This does not leave any space for unconventional thinking, but just to follow what is already digested for us. We are just consumers of the world, when we need to be part of it, as Bojan Boskovic, one of the founders of Exit Festival, suggested when we met in Croatia. That can happen by becoming prosumers, the proactive, informed and influential producer and consumers of tomorrow.6
Finally, the high rate of unemployment is the greatest challenge of youth that is strongly connected with the above mentioned arguments. It is the final call for innovation and growth by the agents of change that should emerge from this generation. But, to flourish creativity we should not overcame challenges, but embrace them.7 It is time to encourage new ideas, especially from below and from unexpected sources8, which are most familiar to the youth as their consumers and promotes. For that to be achieved, we need to be comfortable, curious and confident. Unfortunately, these are the characteristics that can suffer the most in this situation if youth is not empowered. They mostly do what is expected, follow the common rules and thinking – because it is even harder to find a job if you present yourself as risky, insecure, or susceptible to failure. In time of uncertainty, shift of geopolitical balance and valuing adaptation over planning, flexibility and compromise over intransigence9, the elders require them to be example of stability and the old world. `Out of the box` thinking should be boosted with the support of different national and international initiatives that will unite their force into the synergy of tomorrow`s leaders by transferred skills and shared knowledge, such as the Youth Council of the U.S. Department of State10, or the youth employment package of measures by the European Commission11. What has been the biggest obstacle in the past – language and different cultures – today is a history due to the influence of the biggest communication tool, the social media and the unified language, symbols and way of thinking.
Jack Keroack in his book On the road wrote: “…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue center-light pop and everybody goes ‛Awww!’” It reminds me of what the President of Republic of Macedonia said when I received recognition as first president of his School for Young Leaders Alumni Association: “Be brave to be happy!”
The thousands of tools, applications and methods give us the impression today that we do the right effort to make the needed change and loose the strongest drives of youth, insecurity and impatience because we think that with `like` we support a cause, with `tweet` we raise our voice, and with Instagram we show the truth. But, do we really? The effort counts if it has impact, online and offline, local and global, and if is the right impact will enhance worldwide thanks to social media. As the General Secretary of UN, Mr. Ban Ki-moon said last summer: “We may be living in the small Planet Earth, but still it is wide, still it is big for youth. To realize your dream you have to work for common humanity and become global citizen”. Hence, though I started this essay by supporting to thesis that youth is ignorant and with conformist attitude today, this is just because it is on its transformative path to realize the potential of becoming the ‘Prometheus’ of tomorrow. That requires an attitude towards change. However, as Andy Warhol once said, “When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before then, and sometimes they die before they get around to it.”. So I hope many will survive the assimilation, including you, since you found time to read my thoughts today.
1. World Bank`s Youthink! Blog;
2. The movie We all want to be young;
3. Harvard Business Review Blog;
4. Detachment – the movie;
5. Art Markman`s Blog;
6. Short movie: Prometheus – Revolution of media;
7. TED Conferences;
8. Harvard Business Review Blog;
9. Euro RSCG Worlwide. “Prosumer Report Millenials: the Challenger Generation, Vol.11, 2011”. pp.5
10. U.S. Department of State Blog;
11. Web page of the European Commission.