Reflections on Parkland and #NeverAgain: Can New Generations Change Our Approach to Seemingly Intractable Problems?

When I talk about the multigenerational workplace, one of my themes is that those of us from previous generations can become so mired in old ways of thinking that it’s hard for us to come up with innovations.

It’s like that old saying, “When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail.” It can be hard to let go of preconceived notions about “the way it’s always been.”

New Generations Bring Change

But each new generation brings fresh solutions to age-old problems. For example, it’s no secret that I believe millennials have changed today’s workplace in ways that have benefitted us all. Instead of seeing and accepting what is, their fresh eyes see what could be and have launched innovative ways of approaching work that banish, for instance, the “one size fits all” mentality of previous generations, from how we office to when we work to what our career path looks like.

The View from Parkland

I have been reflecting on this since, like many of you, I’ve been so extraordinarily moved by the response of the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, that has galvanized so many other young adults across the country.

This youth moment is certainly similar to, as Oprah and others have noted, that of the Baby Boomer Freedom Riders and many other activists of the 1960s, and a reminder that young people have always been outspoken.

One important difference is the tools being used and the pace of action. In the ‘60s, it was about taking to the streets to have young voices heard. Today, in addition to in-person protests, young people are taking to social media and using that powerful forum to share their terror, their anger, their heroism and, maybe eventually, their hope.

In today’s open access society, even a 21-year-old can share her views on the New York Times opinion page, as this former intern of Marco Rubio recently did, and many students had the opportunity to converse directly with elected officials at televised town halls less than a week after their protests began.

Fresh Voices Lead to Fresh Ideas

I urge everyone to remember that multigenerational leadership—looking to one another for solutions and listening to new voices—can be a potent force in our communities and in our workplaces alike.

Just as we are all listening intently to the powerful voices of these Florida teenagers, where can we listen to young people in our own communities and workplaces? Right now, nothing feels more important.

My challenge to you—and to myself: Where can we solicit fresh views and fresh thinking in our lives or workplaces that might solve what appear to be intractable problems? I hope you’ll join the conversation below or on Twitter.

Lindsey Pollak is the leading expert on millennials and the multigenerational workplace, trusted by global companies, universities and the world’s top media outlets. A New York Times bestselling author and keynote speaker, Lindsey began her career as a dorm RA in college and has been mentoring millennials — and explaining them to other generations — ever since. Her presentations have audiences so engaged that, in the words of one attendee, “I didn’t check my phone once!” Contact Lindsey to discuss a speaking engagement for your organization.

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Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


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