You know what I don’t see much anymore? Kids out playing. Something has happened in the past couple of decades – perhaps it is easy access to electronics, or the growth of youth sports, or parental fear driven by an overactive and lurid news cycle, but kids just don’t seem to go out and play anymore. A lot has been written about this, and the concept of the “Free-Range Kid,” coined and popularized by the remarkable Lenore Skenazy (https://letgrow.org/) has worked its way into the vernacular. Parents, psychologists and pediatricians are writing about the dangerous consequences of not letting kids engage in free play, get bored, make mistakes, and do “grown-up” activities on their own, whether that is riding the subway, playing a pick-up soccer game, or fixing their own breakfast.
Students are arriving at college anxious and depressed, unable to deal with adversity, and unable to plan their own schedule. Most importantly, they are afraid of not being perfect, and unused to dealing with adversity. Their collaboration skills, which should have been honed in the playground and park are underdeveloped. What concerns me is what happens when those kids, now young adults, arrive in the lean workplace, and their manager expects them to be part of continuously improving the organization. How will they react when they are asked to identify an issue and be part of the team that solves it? Will they be able to run an experiment that fails, and study the result and plan the next experiment? How will their lean leaders need to address these gaps?
Let me know what you think. Do you agree? Have you seen the impact of over-protected, over-scheduled kids in the workplace? Are today’s graduates bringing other skills that outweigh these issues?