Developing the Net Generation through Coaching

I have several daily must-reads.  Fast Company is my favourite from  that list. For those unfamiliar with the magazine and its website, this excerpt from their “about us” section encapsulates its purpose well,

Fast Company is the world’s leading progressive business media brand, with a unique editorial focus on innovation in technology, ethonomics (ethical economics), leadership, and design. Written for, by, and about the most progressive business leaders, Fast Company and inspire readers and users to think beyond traditional boundaries, lead conversations, and create the future of business.

While pulling the early shift with my 9 month old, I found an article on entitled, “To Bring Out the Best in Millennials, Put on Your Coaching Hat”.  The article was written by Tony Wagner , the first Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard. While the article may be aimed at corporations, the ideas presented prove helpful for schools as well. Wagner points out that this generation has a passion for creation like no other generation but this passion is sometimes misunderstood or under-appreciated. The gap between millennials and older generations lies in their approach to work, tradition and definitions of success.

Millennial Observations:

  • more interested in making a contribution than making money
  • they see work as an adult form of play
  • they seek experiences that are engaging in the moment, that excite them both intellectually and emotionally
  • they are looking for opportunities to give back and seek change
  • feel stifled by the 9 to 5 routine – want to be held accountable for more than following simple protocol
  • engaged in passion, play and purpose

I am quite sure that this list of observations would neatly overlap with those of any teacher in any classroom from  grade 7  to 12. Rather than being excited about the possibilities of the millennial mindset, many educators and corporate managers have their reservations. Instead of castigating them for a different mindset, we should recognize that it has the power to fuel innovation and generate social equity. One of the chief complaints that I hear regularly is that this generation lacks respect for authority. I agree with that perspective to a point. Students have lost respect for the traditional authority based on position and hierarchy. I suppose that every generation says the same about the next.

Wagner argues that the authority that matters is that of expertise, modelling of good values, the enabling of innovation, and authority that enables teams to come up with better solutions. In other words, authority is an earned construct rather a simple function of position on the pyramid.

Wagner suggests that the best way to develop this generation is with a coaching mindset. Manager, teacher, principal, or any other position needs to focus on developing strengths and guiding students rather than constraining them. In an era where access to information is ubiquitous, content knowledge is no longer king. We must develop the skills in our students that will allow them to be innovators and to create social change. Innovation flows from an open environment.

Below is one of Wagner’s presentations about developing an innovators mindset: