1. Develop a healthy fear of the status quo.
As a “zillennial” (mix of Generation Z and millennial), I often sense a fear of change among professionals of older generations. Indeed, keeping up with all the technological, social, economic and structural changes over the past decade is no easy task. But I believe the fear is misdirected. Rather than fearing change, we should let our fear enable us to create change. Most actions are rooted in some sense of fear with the objective to create a measure of change. For instance, businesses make budget cuts out of a fear of bankruptcy with the hope to create profitability. Let your fears lead you to creating change instead of fearing it.
2. Find what makes your null hypothesis true.
We set natural limitations when we accept the status quo as unchangeable. If we started turning reality on its head by stating the opposite instead of the obvious, we could foster exponential innovation. For example, most restaurants are bound to think customers order food for their staff to prepare. What if we created a restaurant where customers prepare their own food from the ingredients and recipes a restaurant provides?
3. Creativity can be taught.
Creativity is one of the most sought-after skills today. Thankfully, it is something we can teach our brains to do. An easy creativity exercise is to meditate for three minutes on a time you were confronted with a new culture, idea or people group – maybe an experience living or visiting abroad. Research shows that reflecting on a time when you encountered new experiences will activate the parts of your brain responsible for making associations and exploring new patterns. This physically primes your brain to think more creatively and limitlessly.
4. Break the pattern, not the bank.
Many organizations apply the same approach to leadership across all departments, personnel, customers, services, etc., and are left dumbfounded when their trusted approach fails to produce positive results in a particular area. Leadership is only as strong as the effective participation of followers. If each department, employee or customer requires a tailored approach to leadership to effectively participate, it is a cost an organization must be willing to absorb, at least to the extent to which it is still more lucrative than the loss of that person, product line, etc.
5. See your organization as a mission, not a mold.
COVID-19 has taught us that not all business models can endure disruption to the highest degree, but that does not mean those models are not strong. However, disruption like this will come again, and organizations must be prepared. While serving as an AmeriCorps volunteer, my placement partner realized their mission to provide equitable access to environmental education to students in St. Louis was far more important than the classroom teaching model through which they delivered their lessons. As such, we moved to a remote learning model where we created self-directed learning kits with instructions and materials for students to complete at home.
6. Content cannot be created without context.
It can be all too easy to remain in our own echo chambers, especially after months of practicing social distancing. However, if we do not engage those we serve or manage to ask for their feedback, we will miss out on opportunities for collaboration and improvement. It wasn’t until a camcorder salesman for Panasonic asked his son’s friend to record his son’s birthday party festivities that the salesman realized the product was not designed for a left-handed person. Panasonic became the first company to offer a camcorder with a universal handle.
7. Spend the first and last five minutes of the workday in reflection.
Much also can be learned from your own life. In the last five minutes of your workday, open a working document and add today’s date. Make bullet points about what you did, how you were treated, how you treated others, what remaining questions you have about the day, what new ideas you heard or had, and anything else on your mind. Open the document the next morning and reflect on yesterday’s notes. Ask yourself what connections you can make between the ideas you noted and working ideas on your plate. Ask yourself how you can improve your interactions with co-workers, clients and subordinates by reflecting on the positive ways you were treated or treated others. Ask yourself what steps you need to take to answer the remaining questions and set goals for how you will approach the day.
8. Hire minds, not degrees.
With the rise of freelance work and increased access to professional skill development, many young professionals possess the necessary technical and relational acumen to be successful in a number of career fields without a related degree. Organizations should prioritize a job candidate’s decision-making and values judgment over their professional resume. As far back as the 1880s, railroad companies employed priests to conduct their hiring processes because of their unparalleled judgment of character.
9. Institutions can create opportunities, but only people create connections.
As my generation enters the workforce, we value organizations with an attention to diversity, equity and inclusion. While many have created programs, offices and commitments to these issues, the efforts are merely platforms. We need people – those willing to invest in relationships with others, listening to their stories and making them feel seen. Diversity is being asked to the dance, while inclusion is being asked to dance.
10. Young people are more valuable than even the most well-funded focus group.
I was once rewarded with 10 days of paid time off for showing my supervisor how to livestream an event on Facebook. Young people offer perspective, technological acumen and social literacy that can take an organization to new heights with the click of a button. It is important to not only hire young people but also to actively engage their opinions and minds.
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