If you lead young people today, you already know they value creativity. In general, Generation Y (the students born since 1980) and especially Generation iY (the students born since 1990) are creative individuals, and they love environments that allow them to utilize their ingenuity.
In addition, they also love connection. They love to stay connected socially (to friends) and technologically (to ideas). Research reveals they are disconnected from people and technology only one hour in a twenty-four hour day. Like creativity, connectivity is their middle name.
Allow me to let you in on a little secret these kids already understand. It’s something they intuitively know:
These two words go together. One often leads to another.
Steve Jobs brilliantly declared: “Creativity is just connecting things.” While we often think of great innovators as people who dream up ideas out of nothing, Steve Jobs was merely explaining the freshest ideas are usually just new combinations of stuff that already exists. Under Jobs leadership, for example, Apple didn’t invent MP3 players or tablet computers—they just made them better with features that were new to the category. The Wright brothers were bicycle manufacturers who dreamed of flight. Their first airplane looked a lot like a flying bicycle. Gutenberg applied his knowledge of wine presses to a printing machine able to mass-produce words not wine. Street performers Daniel Gauthier and Guy Laliberte turned their knowledge of the circus, gymnastics and theatre into a splendid new category of entertainment: Cirque du Soleil. It was three old ideas that originated a new one.
This is a helpful insight for leaders of students. Let them use their love of creativity and connection to do their work. Give them some freedom along with the goal. In fact, here are my seven rules for cultivating creativity with Generation Y:
Allow them to work in communities.
Ensure they bring diverse experiences and gifts to those communities.
Give them a very clear objective but let them choose their own methods.
Explain the “why” behind the project, before you get to the “what.”
Provide stimulation without too much structure. Few rules. Free thinking.
Express affirmation (belief in them) and give them consistent feedback.
Prepare for their answer to be “out of the box.” Don’t shoot it down instantly.
The bottom line? Connect people and you connect ideas. This is what often leads to creativity. If you are willing—those students you lead may just be your key to the future. Why not give them a chance?