Change Leaders

Joshua (not his real name) is organizing students, parents and community leaders around an idea called Cool Communities, created by the Sierra Club.  The idea is simple: get businesses, the chambers of commerce, municipality governments and local communities to sign on to a commitment toward reducing wasteful consumption of resources and working toward sustainable local environments.  This initiative is modeled after a successful Canadian campaign and includes commitments of: no-idling, switching to biofuel, adopting ‘green-tags’, and focusing on local food development and consumption.  He has lobbied the local government and presented to community leaders in this effort.  Simple, clear objectives and actionable ideas right?  Here’s the killer: he’s a freshman in high school.

Like Severin Suzuki before him in 1992 speaking to the UN, he unabashedly is willing to confront leaders in our community to bring about change that will make for a better and more sustainable world.  It’s a reminder what courage and vision can accomplish regardless of age, power or perceived influence.

[add-on 1/14/2009 – GSHunter]

Reflecting on our next generation and their capacity to create and drive change, I realized how Don Tapscott has been influencing my thinking lately.  Tapscott’s latest book, Grown Up Digital, enumerates the varieties of ways in which the developing generation – he defines as roughly eight to thirty – have enhanced mental switching capabilities, which explains why your twelve year old easily turns on and interacts with texting, multi-player game environments, gaming and – oh, by the way, at the same time – can do their homework and probably have the TV on in the background as ambient noise.  If it sounds preposterous that one can competently interact with such disparate media and technology effectively consider his anecdote about Joe O’Shea who is 22 years old, and has created a successful health clinic in the 9th ward of New Orleans, gets straight A’s, is President of the student council, has created the Global Peace Exchange, manages a 10.1M budget and is on his way to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship.  And he confesses he doesn’t read books.  That’s right, Joe doesn’t work through information in the linear fashion commonly understood, and expected to be effective to digest and act on.

Tapscott argues that the inundation of media and the new digital natives who easily inhabit this space are going to redefine the coming workplace, way of interaction, and ultimately the manner in which the world functions.  He acknowledges there are a number of great unknowns in this developing paradigm but it’s certainly not all bad as older generations commonly complain.  There are roughly 8 million people joining the workplace who are clashing with the corporate norms of today, and the entering generation isn’t tolerating it.  Don points out that the prevailing reaction to social mediums like facebook, myspace, etc is to ban them from the business environment, and the new generation of workers is balking.

Check out Blue Shirt Nation, in which Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson has signed off on a collaborative social network within Best Buy allowing product innovation to gestate at the bottom of the hierarchy and faciliate the interaction of people within the organization to drive product development and customer interaction.

We’re producing a live interactive event featuring Don Tapscott on May 5th broadcast from Toronto.