It is time again to reflect on Buckminster Fuller’s question: “How do we make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological damage or disadvantage to anyone?” Maybe we are all a bit slower than Bucky. He shared with us in his 1983 Grunch of Giants: “I do know that technologically humanity now has the opportunity, for the first time in its history, to operate our planet in such a manner as to support and accommodate all humanity at a substantially more advanced standard of living than any humans have ever experienced.” There is no better time than now to embrace this wisdom.
Our younger generations have different worldviews, which will move us to collective consciousness over the next few decades. The new generations—from the age of three to 19—are seeing everything as connected and have an increasing affinity to nature regardless of where they live. While many children today play indoors because of safety reasons, their longing for being outdoors and in nature will likely shift as they desire to experience nature directly. The Internet and the ability to connect with people around the globe has always been available to many of them. Those under 20 years of age have witnessed tough times in their short lives. Many teens today are trying to learn from the mistakes made by Millennials or Gen Y-ers (born between 1977 and 1997). Many Gen Z-ers (born after 1997) feel education needs to be active rather than passive and that unemployment is a risk for them. They are more concerned about the future, and not just for themselves. 46
Six in 10 Gen Z-ers want to change the world, compared to four in ten Millennials. 47 In the US, for example, about 76% of youth today strongly believe issues like climate change can be solved if action is taken now. They also think safeguarding important lands and waters should be a priority regardless of any ancillary benefits and the struggling economy. 48 In China, 62% of Gen Z believe that financial accomplishment is no longer the main signifier of success, and 94% claim that it is essential for brands to be sustainable and environmentally conscious. 49
This will have significant implications for the future of business, as members of the upcoming generations will no longer want to be fit into a broken system of work that is built on concepts of scarcity, competition, and fear. They will not want to be labeled, separated, or studied like generations before them. An increasing number will want to work for themselves or in new collectives that come together based on shared purpose, and disband when they achieve their goals. They will not want to see a separation in private versus public versus non-profit sectors, and will expect businesses to be responsible in how they operate. They will seek higher purpose, integration, partnership, and deeper connection.
While this may be hard to believe as we witness the increased anger and outrage demonstrated by many in the Millennial generation today, 50 change is coming. Our current way of life is not sustainable, not just from an environmental perspective but also from a human level. Parents of Millennials in the Western world wanted their children to have many of things they didn’t, from educational opportunities to material possessions, and they have often been overinvolved in their children’s lives as helicopter parents. 51 In other parts of the world—such as Romania, Turkey, and South Africa—Millennials have had more opportunity to create a new path for themselves by changing their circumstances. I worked with many of them at Cisco and was blown away by their drive and passion. They gave me hope for our future.
We will learn from the younger generations, as they ask questions that many before them have not had the courage to ask about why the world is the way it is. It is up to us to choose to open our hearts, minds, and eyes to what they see, and if we do, we will benefit immensely. They are co-creating the future side by side with us. We are already witnessing new ways of education on the edge that are being developed by pioneers like Michael Strong, co-founder of KoSchool, who understand that the next generations will need more experiential skills than our traditional education systems offer. To truly create our new world of business, our fundamental education system needs to adapt and to work side by side with the business world in new ways.
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