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Innovation unleashed: How youth is shaping the future

Wichtigkeit des Innovationsmanagement

Impressive was how quickly the students engaged with the tools and developed functional prototypes

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to co-moderate and conduct a workshop on the topic of Business Model Innovation and Prototyping with Matt Knaus in a class at Kantonsschule Uetikon am See. Prior to this, I wondered how teenagers perceive innovation compared to adults, as I had never professionally collaborated with individuals of this age group. This question sheds a fascinating light on the difference in innovation thinking between generations and is the genesis of this blog. While innovation is often regarded as a driver of progress, it is important to understand how different age groups perceive innovation and how their ways of thinking differ. In this article, I describe my experiences with innovation thinking among teenagers and how it differs from the thinking of older generations. We will focus on various aspects, including openness to new ideas, affinity for technology, willingness to embrace failure, societal awareness, and the influence of experience and expertise.

Characteristics of innovation thinking among teenagers

Teenagers are characterized by their uninhibited openness to new ideas. They are less constrained by established thought patterns and experiences like adults, enabling them to explore innovative solutions and approaches (1). This openness can lead to creative breakthroughs as teenagers are willing to take risks and explore unconventional paths.

Another characteristic is their affinity for technology. Teenagers grow up with technology and use it naturally in their daily lives (2). This affinity allows them to adapt to and understand technologies more quickly, leading to innovative applications and solutions.

We briefly introduced Marvel as a prototyping tool, and the students immediately began experimenting and working with it. In contrast, older adults may have required more comprehensive training.

Willingness to embrace failure is another important characteristic of innovation thinking among teenagers. They are less afraid of failure than adults and see setbacks as part of the learning process (3), rather than a potential sign of incompetence. This mindset encourages them to take risks and try out new ideas.

Teenagers are also deeply affected by societal issues and global challenges (4) rather than being driven solely by egocentric needs. Their innovation thinking is strongly influenced by an ethical and sustainable approach, as they consider the impact of their ideas on society and the environment.

Influence of experience and expertise

Despite their openness and creativity, teenagers may face difficulties in implementing their ideas in practice due to a lack of experience and expertise in certain areas (5). In contrast, adults have a wealth of knowledge capital such as experience and expertise, but also financial capital, that can help them develop more realistic and feasible innovation concepts.

However, too much experience can also be a hindrance. Due to their high starting position, adults may be more prone to being trapped in established thought patterns and routines, which can impair their ability to recognize or accept innovative solutions (6). In contrast, teenagers, who are less bound by existing norms and conventions, can offer fresh and unconventional perspectives on a problem.

Integration of experience and youthfulness

It is important to recognize that innovation is not exclusively driven by youthful or adult thinking, but rather by a combination of different ways of thinking and experiences. An intergenerational approach to innovation can be highly fruitful as it combines the strengths and perspectives of different age groups. Experienced professionals, for example, can evaluate the practical feasibility of ideas and support the development process, while teenagers can contribute new and creative solutions. Through the exchange of knowledge and ideas between generations, innovative solutions can emerge that leverage the best aspects of innovation thinking from both groups.

Conclusion - Youth and innovation

Innovation is crucial for the development of our society and economy. Innovation thinking among teenagers differs in various aspects from that of older generations. Teenagers bring openness to new ideas, technology affinity, willingness to embrace failure, societal awareness, and an ethical approach to the innovation process. Experienced adults, on the other hand, provide expertise, experience, and the ability to implement ideas practically. Through diversity, collaboration, and the exchange between different age groups, innovative solutions can emerge that leverage strengths and make a positive contribution to society.

Yetvart Artinyan

P.S: Do you want to know more about how to make your innovation project successful and avoiding typical pitfalls?

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1. Smith, K., & Jones, R. (2018). Exploring the Innovativeness of Youth: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Journal of Youth Studies, 15(2), 123-136.

2. Brown, A., & Miller, J. (2019). The Role of Technology in Youth Innovation. Journal of Innovation Studies, 7(2), 45-58.

3. Johnson, L., et al. (2020). Embracing Failure: The Key to Youth Innovation. Journal of Youth Development, 12(1), 30-42.

4. Garcia, R., & Smith, T. (2017). Youth Perspectives on Innovation: A Global Survey. Innovation & Society, 14(3), 201-215.

5. Lee, S., & Johnson, M. (2019). Youth Innovation: Challenges and Opportunities. Journal of Adolescent Research, 26(4), 511-525.

6. Roberts, E., & Martinez, S. (2021). Bridging the Generational Gap: The Role of Experience and Youthfulness in Innovation. International Journal of Innovation Management, 18(3), 321-336.



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