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John Stokoe

Dassault Systèmes

Head of Strategic Development EuroNorth

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Harnessing the power of youthful imagination


The Greek philosopher, Aristotle allegedly said - "Give me a child until the age of seven and I will show you the man".  This quote probably was based on the assumption that by the age of seven, education would have prepared the child for adulthood. Whether or not this is the case, what is clear is that the youthful mind, untainted by the pressures of the adult world, is able to range freely, think the seemingly impossible and view the world in a very different way to the mind of the adult.  

As society increasingly embraces the digital, virtual world, created by the Internet, social media and the exponential growth of gaming technology, then I would argue that we should look at how the unfettered imagination of the youthful mind can be harnessed to create success in the world of business, whilst enhancing the social environment in which we all live. 

The lifestyle of young people is shaped by the virtual world. It conditions how they think and act, where nothing is impossible and experimentation can be carried out fearlessly.  Furthermore, they are not afraid of change - change is the norm. Change which causes uncertainty and concern in the minds of some adults is second nature.  

Our young people view the world differently - they tend to look at the digital world before the real world, to see what the digital world is doing and how the real world then reacts.  It is about experience - not the physical object. Young people measure life by experiences and are shaped by it. It is is how that shaping occurs which determines how people develop and grow.     

No limits

University and college education starts the process of conditioning minds. By the time they graduate, students are starting to think along certain lines. In comparison, 17 year old, pre-college students have minds and imaginations relatively unfettered by institutionalised thinking. That is the moment at which we should start to capture the power of that youthful imagination. The key to harnessing that power is not to influence the mind with limitations but instead pose the question 'why not?'.  

Technology growth over the last 15 years has been extremely rapid and there is no sign of that falling away - in fact the reverse is true. Limitations and barriers to thought are bring broken down and the business world needs to empower the mind to think further, faster and deeper. 

The now routine use of social media presents a dilemma for communication and accessing how the mind thinks. Words need careful thought if true meaning is to be conveyed in the almost instantaneous transmission of messages. We all need to understand that young people are not afraid to think the unthinkable, to generate ideas no matter how obscure they appear to be. It is only when they enter the institutionalised world of business that the fear of breaking corporate rules and guidelines restricts their thinking in case measures used to assess performance lead to censure and warning. 

Interns and graduates arrive enthusiastic and full of promise - all too often that enthusiasm is dampened by corporate processes

Organisations which wish to show leadership and encourage development and progress need to find a way to give impetus to the imagination of its young employees. Interns and graduates arrive enthusiastic and full of promise - all too often that enthusiasm is dampened by corporate processes and behaviours and the potential power of the individual is lost.

People should be encouraged to ask the question 'why not' or 'if we' - learning from experiences - experiences on which business can be designed. The uncluttered mind of youth, encouraged and given freedom to operate and roam free is a powerful asset. Archimedes said "Give me a lever and a fulcrum and I will move the world".  The young person is the fulcrum - the power of imagination the lever.

Author Profile Picture
John Stokoe

Head of Strategic Development EuroNorth

Read more from John Stokoe

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