Has it occurred that today’s systems just may not teach lateral thinking and problem solving?

Over the last few months, we have had many conversations with all levels – those at board level bemused why there is not a greater number of emerging leaders breaking through: those at middle management levels who know that they face criticism and are trying to take on leadership roles and those at junior levels that do have a vision of the future.

By Chris Sheppardson, Managing Director, EP

So why the disconnect in leadership breaking through? Maybe one of the issues is that fact is that the millennial generations and beyond have gone through a different structure and process that has been more focused on results and grade attainment than producing rounded human beings ready for the big wide world?

This is not an idle comment; it is fascinating to see that many simply do not naturally problem solve, think laterally about solutions or even create new solutions. They are expert in following a process, a structure but what seems to have been missing is new visions and solutions being promoted by the millennials. It is as though they go through work life work by numbers rather than with independent thinking and creative flair. It can be like watching a sports team that plays to Plan A with no Plan B and are lost when the game is drifting away from them – but is this because this is what has been nurtured and developed? Maybe the system is not fit for purpose?

However, I would say that there is no lack of talent everywhere. The younger generations maybe not possess the lateral thinking of previous generations but their behaviours are of a higher level and they possess genuine potential and feel pressurised.

One has to wonder if some of the awful stats that we read on mental health issues is due to the way that the system has prepared the young? Maybe there has too much focus on league tables and results rather preparing rounded talent for the workplace?

Unfair? Is it a coincidence that senior CEOs have faced higher levels of pressure than ever before but are coping with the pressure and stress of leadership? Their leadership abilities are well proven. It is the gap to the next generation that has been concerning.

We would argue that there is a real need for leadership development centres that really do help change the above – to support the exceptional talent that does exist to think differently, to problem solve and to think with greater freedom. Freedom of thought and having the freedom to act must be one of the key attributes of any adult let alone leader. For leadership there is a need to ensure that we see the next generations now take centre stage and be comfortable on that stage. If one talks to many from the baby boom generation they would know of friends or colleagues who began their own businesses in their mid-twenties, who had no fear to think freely and embrace life. If it is not happening naturally then yes it needs nurturing and we need to create a new process/framework to deliver this for the future.