Greetings. Here’s an interesting idea from the worlds of municipal government, politics, and popular culture that should challenge us to think in new ways about our own companies and workplaces…
The City of Takoma, Maryland (a suburb of Washington, D.C., with a population of roughly 17,000), is considering a proposal that would allow 16-year-olds to vote in local elections. It is based on the notion that it is very important to get young people involved in the local political process and that if we wait until they turn 18 we too often miss the chance to engage them as they head off to college, work, or move to a new community. And it is also based on a belief that having more people vote is a better way to gain broader input and make the right decisions.
Whether you agree with this idea or not, it raises an important question about how much we value the ideas, perspectives, and possibilities of our youngest or our newest neighbors and employees. The people who have the least amount of “relevant” work or life experience but who might also have a fresh approach to the problems and opportunities we face. The people who know the least about how our business or community operates but might be more open-minded about the need to do things in different ways. The people who have made the smallest investment in our future so far but might have the most to gain by finding a place where they can make a real contribution. The people who could provide the energy, enthusiasm, and dedication we need if we show them that they matter at a young age or from the very first day they arrive at work.
We tend as a society to believe that certain rights and privileges must be earned by age, tenure, training, discipline, and “paying your dues.” Or, as the comedian Woody Allen once said: “90 percent of success in life is just showing up.” But what matters most is the desire and potential to make a difference by challenging us to think in new ways and by prodding us to get with the program that is changing rapidly before our eyes. Young people are an essential part of the future in our communities and our businesses and organizations. Shouldn’t they also play a significant role in inventing that future?
We win in business and in life when we seek broader insight and engagement. And when we find it hard to make age or time on the job the key factor.