As a father of three, my kids constantly come up with weird, wacky and brilliant ideas – and I love that. Whether at work or at home, I often think about the world we’re building for the generations beyond us, and how the next big change can spring from the smallest idea.
There was a time when you had to fit into a typical mould to be considered entrepreneurial – an inventive risk-seeker who beats down barriers. These days, technology and innovation have shown it takes all types to become an entrepreneur. A spirit of entrepreneurialism can start from a young age and, when nurtured, that spark can turn into something special.
In the Ageless Entrepreneurship report we recently conducted across Australia, close to half of parents surveyed said that one of their children considers themselves to be a bit of an entrepreneur, or knows that they want to own their own business when they’re older (46.1% and 45.9% respectively). More than half said they teach their child or children as much as possible about becoming an entrepreneur.
This leaves us with an incredible opportunity. In a rapidly changing society, how do we ensure today’s younger generations have the entrepreneurial skills to innovate?
1. Inspire creativity
From never being afraid to always ask ‘Why?’ to a string of imaginative endeavours, kids are often quite curious and creative by nature. It’s perhaps why 57% of respondents with children said one of their kids is always looking for creative and new ways to make money.
Whether you encourage more time for art and play at home, or help your kids understand there’s no fear in failure, promoting a spirit of creativity at home can help reinforce the thinking that mistakes are just stepping stones to learning – and give kids the confidence to give something a go.
2. Feed financial literacy
A big majority (71.8%) of respondents said there are entrepreneurial skills they wish they had learned more about when they were younger, including financial management, the ability to identify an opportunity, and networking.
For some, teaching your kids more about financial literacy can be as simple as instigating more open conversations about money at home, at the supermarket or at the ATM – teaching youngsters the value of the things around them. For more in-depth learning, there are some great literacy programs you can look into, with many running in schools or vocational training environments.
3. Practice problem solving
Given children spend so much time in school, it logically follows that the majority of respondents believe schools can do more to build business and entrepreneurial skills in children, particularly by teaching them more about making decisions and problem-solving (68.3%).
It’s encouraging to see a range of school-based initiatives being rolled out by leading entrepreneurs and not-for-profit organisations – like Big Picture, which encourages alternate pathways to accessing tertiary education based on vocational project work with an industry mentor.
The way we teach kids is changing, and not a moment too soon, with a number of high schools now offering entrepreneurial-based study options.
4. Support their passions
Gone are the days when a love for robots or making up games would be considered child’s play. With technology as our greatest teacher, a child’s passion is now a genuine contender for their future career choice. Even if it’s not about business, the experience of being supported in their interests can help kids cultivate a spirit of independent thinking.
Parents and carers are taking this on board, with half (50.3%) currently investing in or planning to invest in non-school activities to build their child’s entrepreneurial skills.
5. Lead by example
Ten or so years ago, it wouldn’t have been commonplace to go to school with an entrepreneur, but young pioneers like Xero Cloud St resident Izzie Dymalovski at Luv Ur Skin are changing this perception. Izzy set up a nationally distributed skincare range while she was still at school.
Perhaps all of this points to an even bigger shift at work: encouraging the freedom to try something new, whether you are an employee, entrepreneur, intrapreneur or side hustler. And that freedom is something worth advocating for, entrepreneur or not.
Trent Innes is the managing director of Xero Australia.
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