Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Child Within Us

Last week I spent a few days in Chicago attending a Professional Services Management conference. As is my custom, I spent an extra day checking out some of the sights of the Windy City, especially since the weather was spectacularly beautiful…much better than the rain in Portland, apparently. In my wanderings I happened across a park with a fountain near the Navy Pier.

Fountains are an interesting thing…they attract kids, and kids become these giddy little balls of squealing energy as the water plays tricks with them. Have you also noticed how unaware children are of people watching them? How unself-conscious they are?

This little girl was enjoying playing in the water…so much so that she didn’t care how wet she became, or how cold the water might be.  It didn’t take much persuasion to have her go back into the fountain for some photos.
How often do we let the child within us out?  When was the last time you cavorted in a fountain, without a care in the world and not worrying about how wet we are?  I suppose that can be figurative as well as literal, and with a media that continuously reminds us of how serious this world is we need to find ways to play.

One of the discussions in my conference was how to involve those of the Millennial Generation in our work places and in our strategic planning. Who are they? “Millennial” is a term apparently preferred by those born after 1980 from a survey conducted by ABC’s Peter Jennings, and are mostly the children of us Baby Boomers. Millennials saw their parents work long hours, and thought "we don't want that". We (collectively) filled their time with sports, dance, and all manner of activity so they didn’t have the free play time us Boomers had when we were growing up. Yes, it’s a different world, but…

One of the characteristics of a Millennial is a desire for balance in work and play, and this is something us Boomers need to take into consideration as we move into management…and towards retirement. We need to recognize this different approach to life if we are to hand over the reins of our companies (and our world) to those following us.

There are a number of differences in perspective between the Millennials and the Boomers discussed in the seminar, and I came away with some good lessons. Not the least of those lessons is a need to not take ourselves seriously. That doesn’t mean we don’t work hard…we do, but we need to play as well.
 We need to let the child within us out…often!

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