What Innovators Need to (Re)Learn From College Students

Over the past few months I have been able to interact with college students at a variety of institutions. I was able to visit several campuses to talk to students about innovation and leadership. I have visited universities to learn about their entrepreneurial and innovation centers. I’ve toured many campuses in my professional capacity and also as a dad of current and future college students. I even had a chance to speak to Fulbright students from around the world while they visited Atlanta. Every time I am on a campus or with a group of students I find a renewed sense of spirit…and a motivational spark!

I encourage you as a professional, executive or entrepreneur to find a way to tap into the amazing energy you only find at a university.

Being on campus is a reminder of the power of curiosity as a path to learn. The college environment is structured around learning. Outside of this environment it is easy to forget that learning is a lifetime skill as the routines of life take over. Curiosity is a motivator to explore and combining that with unique life experiences provides a path for innovative ways to approach the realties of life.

I love how college students have an open willingness to challenge norms and the status quo. Some would say that this is simply due to the fact that they don’t have the life experiences or responsibilities to mitigate challenging the status quo. I say that is what is beautiful about it. In order to find innovative solutions you need to embrace this spirit and challenge the norms around you.

The belief in possibility is the most infectious part of being around a college environment. These students have a fresh outlook on life and believe that they have the ability to shape the future. This perspective does not need to change with age. Having a purpose and a conviction of making the impossible possible is essential to innovators and change leaders. Being around a university environment is a healthy reminder of this.

Next time you are on a college campus, look beyond the transactional aspect of why you are visiting and embrace the energy this environment creates. Change leaders and innovators need to constantly find environments that help provide inspiration, motivation and space to reflect on the possibilities ahead. By engaging with college students, not only are you helping the future of these young adults, they are also helping yours.


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Innovation, brand, and corporate strategist with more than 25 years of experience in corporate, entrepreneurial, and civic roles. @disruptorstudio @atlchamber