Kids Teaching Trends

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I was in a library recently, where I had the most amazing chance to observe a truly unique interchange. It was a young boy, about 10 years of age, and he was explaining to a grown man how to work a particular computer software program. The kid quietly instructed him on the procedure, pointing out examples on the screen, while the man listened seriously to directions and struggled to keep up with his lead.

At quick glance this is a cute, perhaps almost stereotypical, story. Parents the world over know their kids are computer savvy and that this generation is being brought up on a level of technology light years ahead of the past.

But there’s a lot more to it than that. To me, this interchange is a classic demonstration of why kids are the key indicator of where a sharp entrepreneur should focus his eyes. Unless we’re giving ample attention to what’s on the minds of young people, we as investors are seriously missing the boat on what’s trending.

For a long time I think I misinterpreted the true value of how young people point us in the direction to follow. At one time I think I assumed they were merely the reflection of where our society stood, but in fact they really are the long-term leaders pointing the way.

As a business leader, it’s very important to understand that. Further, it’s important I don’t waste my time judging it—critiquing the clothes, art, attitudes or whatever. It’s irrelevant. I only need to understand that there is a direction being indicated.

Social trends are a key example. It’s documentable that for at least the last 100 years it’s been the younger generation of whatever time that proved to be a clear precursor of the attitudes and customs that would later become commonplace. Broadly speaking, how American society looked in each decade was foretold by youngsters several years before.

Likewise, today the progressive social attitudes shared by most young people forecast a future where differences will diminish and acceptance of others will become standard.

Again, I emphasize, it’s not a question of approving of any particular social trend or debating the point or value. It’s about the simple logic—as an intelligent entrepreneur—of recognizing the trend and defining how it can work for you.

Another clear example of how young people’s attitudes and outlooks lead the way relates to environmental stewardship and sustainability. The incoming generation has made it clear it intends to prioritize care of the outside world. This will reflect itself in lifestyle and in business, even more than it currently does.

Yes, it’s cute to see kids being precocious, but it’s truly enlightening to realize that behind those fresh faces and innocent eyes, ideas are already being formed that will—in the foreseeable future—shape and define the world as we know it.