Do you remember the scene in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” when Brian tells the crowd “You’ve got to think for yourselves. You’re all individuals… You’re all different”. The crowd replies “Yes, we ARE all different”, apart from one wee voice who says “I’m not…”
In the future those who are prepared to separate themselves from the crowd and affirm that they are different will be increasingly important. It is by thinking “different” that new products are invented, that new services are conceived and that the “same old, same old” gets turned around. The value to European economies of SMEs, including new starts, cannot be underestimated. Two thirds of private sector jobs across Europe come from this type of business and the European commission has identified them as being primarily responsible for economic growth in Europe – rather than government spending on infra-structure. But businesses wax and wane so there is a really critical need to encourage young fresh innovative minds to take up the challenge of starting new business.
American business start-up site www.Inc.com has a list of 10 key characteristics they have decided are crucial to business success. These include management skills like goal setting and communication, and being able to learn through failure. It strikes me that a great way to prepare young people to be the kind of people to build the kind of businesses the future needs, is to let them go wild and unfettered in the summer. Unplug the TV /playstation / PC, make sure the fridge and freezer are just full enough to prevent starvation (and give confidence that a new found friend brought home can be offered an ice-cream) and then arrange, organise and set up as little as possible. Initially boredom will make the days seem very long… but gradually some alluring plan for adventure will germinate – involving recognising opportunity, being creative, learning communication, being a leader – in fact many of the other key characteristics identified by Inc.com. What opens endless potential is for any 13 year old to stare into the distance from the heights of a tree and wonder “what if…”, or for them to discover that if they ask 2 like-minded chaps to come and join their game of basketball they’ll have a good time (rather than having team games organised for them). These are some of the moments that form the bedrock of understanding the potential in the world – whether the outcome is fabulous or if the newcomers knick the ball.
My thoughts were focussed by a recent outing with friends. Having gone through a long queue to show our tickets our host decided he should have availed himself of the lavatories at the entrance. As he headed off to either vault the fence or squish himself between the fence and the hedge rather than re-tracing his steps his wife lamented “Why can’t he ever take the same route as everyone else?”. Her husband is a celebrated and visionary architect and his passion and ideas thrive off taking his own approach to whatever he is doing; his buildings are so successful precisely because he does not take the same route as everyone else. New business, ideas, innovation and creativity are not going to come from the young people who take the same route as everyone else, change will come from those that got the chance to think differently.