Greetings. Today is "Youth Day" in South Africa, a holiday that commemorates the pivotal events of June 16, 1976 when 20,000 students from Soweto marched to demand a better and more equal system of education. Their march would lead to clashes with police, riots, the loss of many lives, and gradual change that is now being seen as many of us watch the World Cup. Other countries around the world also celebrate their own version of Youth Day–some marking the sacrifices made by young people in the histories of their nations, and some using the day to honor the important role that young people play in their national life.
Thinking about these holidays suggests a worthwhile connection with success in companies and organizations. A connection that is all about the value that young people could bring to our efforts to innovate and serve our customers in new and remarkable ways. Unfortunately, many workplaces fail to appreciate or even ask for the ideas and potential contributions of their newest or youngest employees. Instead, they rely on age, position, and seniority as the only suitable criteria for setting direction and offering real wisdom. And they assume that employees can only make a difference once they have learned the ropes, paid their dues, earned their stripes, climbed the corporate ladder, and fully understood the way things are done. Not seeing the merit of combining the perspectives and insights of young and old, new and experienced. And not fully (or even partially) appreciating the reality that young people are often the ones who bring the freshest ideas, the greatest energy, the most inspired optimism, and a willingness to take chances. In fact, they are often the ones who are willing to risk their futures quite literally to do what they believe is right, just, and really matters. Yet we often fail to appreciate their commitment or give appropriate credence to their dreams, genius, and potential for innovation.
So maybe it makes sense to establish a "Youth Day" in your company or organization. A day each year–or even more often–when you honor your company's most recent arrivals. By asking them to share their best thinking, by encouraging their suggestions for the things that should change, and by letting them take the lead in bold new efforts to make your organization even better than it already is.
We win in business and in life when we encourage young and old to share their dreams and gifts. Maybe your newest colleagues have real brilliance to share if you are willing to give them a chance to shine.