Publish at May 25 2022 Updated May 31 2022

Cross-learning on transitions between youth and leaders

Establish a dialogue between business leaders and young people

"Youth is the smile of the future before an unknown that is itself" 

Victor Hugo Les Misérables

The transition will be made by the young

The theory of Otto Scharmer aspires to a systemic and complex approach of the world. One of the dimensions of his theory of change lies in his advocacy of introducing into all projects, three key variables:

  • "future generations",
  • "those excluded from the system" and
  • "the planet".

Whatever the nature of the project and its declination, the criteria for a financing plan, the definition of the specifications, a diagnosis to be carried out, a pedagogical approach to accompany it, Otto Scharmer invites us to integrate these three elements in our reflections.

Their introduction substantially modifies our ways of thinking and of making the world happen. In terms of pedagogy, this encounter with young people produces a listening to the future. Everything happens as if instinctively "the young" feel the wind of the world and give the direction to follow.

Maybe this moment in life when they are growing and discovering what surrounds and constitutes them becomes a privileged moment when they capture more than others what is coming. A genetic, hormonal and social alchemy would lead them to feel differently than adults already bursting with experiences and certainties.

If the transition comes from "young people", then the question is what do they believe in? What are their views on the world?

For the sake of convenience I will refer to "the youth", while being aware that such an all-encompassing term is obviously false and misleading so much it covers different realities for those under 30, that there is little in common according to wealth gaps, living environment (city/country), mastery of the language and the dominant social codes of the country.

The purpose is less sociological expertise and more the search for an opening between these "young people" and business leaders who strive to understand them. It should be noted that both young people and leaders have experienced the Covid crisis more or less comfortably. Everyone, whatever their age, was questioned about what was meaningful in their lives, how they lived in the world about what the company was for.

The survey conducted in Canada, probably transposable to many Western countries, revealed the fragility of young people in terms of habitat and resources. While they were not the only ones affected, their living conditions, resources, health, and lifestyle were affected to such an extent that commentators have spoken of a "sacrificed generation." Even more than their individual situations, it is the issue of ecological transition that comes to the forefront of their concerns.

A particularly enlightening survey diligently conducted by the MEDEF in 2021,  association representing French executives, points to a stronger sensitivity than the rest of the population of the interviewed sample to ecological transition issues. Almost systematically, the two populations of young people and business leaders agree on the understanding of the issues. But the youngest (here under 35) are strongly attracted by an economic slowdown. They claim to be well informed and more particularly responsible.

A 2021 CSA (Consumer Science & Analytics) survey in France  confirms this tropism of the ecological transition. "With an equivalent offer, 78% of employees would prefer to join a company committed to the ecological transition." Once again young people are in the front line on this subject.

In addition, from 2019, surveys, for example that of Diploméo, conducted during the great climate strike, striving to give the point of view "of the young" highlighted the distrust they had in the direction of the public word on the issue of ecological transition. 

The 2021 Ipsos poll shows a strong sensitivity of young people on the issue of global warming and at the same time a low mastery of vocabulary and scientific knowledge on the subject. According to this poll, scientists receive the highest confidence from young people.

APM initiatives to bridge (part of) the generational gap

There are practices of reverse mentoring, cross-learning, life my life that allow young people and adults to develop a better cross-understanding of a trade, a professional gesture. This is the example of students from a vocational high school who train leaders in welding gestures they have just learned (All in the workshop for a welded meetingStéphanie Coupade). This type of practice grows empathy and tends to decrease misunderstanding of the other's world. Taking into consideration  "the youth" is a salutary exercise when we see how the future leaders of the economic world commit themselves and break away from the ready-made paths as revealed in "Ruptures" this French feature film that shows how alternatives are being set up in rejection of, alongside, or in confrontation with the dominant model. But, there are also practices being invented that consist of creating spaces for listening to each other, dialoguing and imagining what the future could be made of. 

For a long time the leaders of the APM (Association Progrès du Management), an association of French-speaking business leaders, has been striving to reach out to young people  and to bridge a generation gap that continues to grow both in terms of values and world experience. They are looking to understand their code, their representations of the world to better recruit them and meet their needs perhaps still to better pilot them in companies.

The APME3 (companies committed together) group decided to get involved in a process of co-constructing solutions for the future that are more respectful of humans and the climate by organizing a seminar that included half young people/half leaders.

The initiative comes from a core group of leaders who are passionately striving to re-engage with a youth who seem to distrust grand speeches, promises and public words. These leaders are inspired by new practices of associating young people with strategic committees as the Signorizza restaurant chain does. The chain's co-manager has a simple word "Let's listen to the youth."  Maybe a secret to share to learn the skills we need for tomorrow?


ApmE3 Companies Engaged Together  

L'express how young people see the world 

L'Alsace. Young people have a major role in changing society  

The world. I'm afraid for my future and the future of the planet. What young people are thinking ahead of the presidential election. 

Airzen. Youth voice at work to inspire business 

Youth Advisory Committee 

Sandrine Rouxel Let's hear from youth  

Trailer for the film Ruptures   

Theory U  

Business Transformation Young people and entrepreneurs: when the power flows!  

Ajir. Apm clubs convention, involved youth meet business leaders 

Cayouette-Remblière, J., & Guéraut, É. (2022). Working, housing, and breaking isolation. Youth weakened and divided by early confinement.  

Let's get together at the workshop for a bonded  

MEDEF survey on ecological transition  

Ecological transition in companies: employees' expectations Https://  

Diplomeo. Young people and ecology. Https://  

Ipsos. 79% of young people say they are interested in the topic of global warming 

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