yebwI am constantly amazed by the caliber of today’s youth. This summer, I had the opportunity to volunteer for Young Entrepreneurs Business Week, a camp for high school students focusing on entrepreneurship and professional development. As an advisor at the camp, it is my job to act as the board chair of my company of 10 students. My role is to bring real world experience to the students and share my business knowledge with them; however, each year I am amazed at how much more I actually learn from the students than they learn from me.
Here are the top 5 business lessons that students have taught me:

Ask Questions

The inquisitive nature of youth should never be forgotten as we age. Teenagers question everything, they do not take things “as is.” They want to know why. This inquisitive nature allows for better idea generation and, in the end, better results. Ask questions, push boundaries and do not be satisfied with the ‘just is’.
My students have taught this to me this week as they have worked through business simulations. Each number they plug in, the team asks why. They question each other and try to understand the thought process behind each decision. The level of analysis used is in parallel if not better than what I have seen in many companies. This is partly because they are willing to ask the tough questions to further their understanding.

Take Risks

We have all heard, the greater the risk, the greater the reward. However, as we age, many of us become unwilling to take on higher risks. We start to see more that we can lose so we become stuck in our ways as we start to perceive change as too risky. This can prevent great things from happening. Teenagers are willing to put it all on the line because they really have nothing to lose, or at least their risk perception is lower.
My team was wiling to risk it all when making their final product pitch. When the panel of judges started firing questions at my team, they stepped up to the challenge and with great eloquence answered each question with authority and confidence. They added new details to the product, created contingency plans, talked about sustainable practices, and explained all the product features and benefits completely impromptu. They knew that they had nothing to lose and the judges were amazed at their ability to think on their feet.

Have Fun

Sometimes we get so caught up in our jobs that we forget that having fun can actually have a positive impact on results. While work and producing results has to be taken seriously, incorporating fun and play can help a team communicate better, form stronger working relationships, and think more creatively.
My team reminded me of the importance of having fun during our final presentation when the computer was having technical difficulties and one of the judges jokingly asked if the team could entertain them while they waited. Without skipping a beat, the team turned on Cotton Eyed Joe and proceeded to do the line dance in front of the judges, just as they had performed at the talent show. The judges were in awe at their ability to think on the fly.

A Diverse Team Can Be Great Advantage

Many times in business, people see diversity as a challenge instead of an opportunity. However, teenagers are able to be more accepting as they have less stereotypes and preconceived notions than adults. They embrace diversity and use it to their advantage.
My team was a diverse as they come. I had four out of state students, two students with English as their second language, one eighth grader, five seniors, three girls and five boys. I have never seen such a group come together so quickly and become so close. They were supportive of each other and were able to play off of the diverse talents of the team. Their ability to work as a team and value each other’s insights ultimately led to being named the overall winning team of the week.

Be Creative

As we age, we lose our ability to think creatively, mostly because of “constraints” that we or our jobs create that prevent us from thinking outside the box. Teenagers do not have these constraints. They are able to see things in a different way and they do not let conditions and constraints limit the possibilities.
I watched the ideation process of my team of high schools as they looked at common needs to create a viable product. Their brainstorming process was incredible. They considered the market, competitors, technology and chemistry behind the product, as well as an operational plan to create the business. Every decision was thought out in a creative way and the team could explain in detail the thought process behind each decision.
If YEBW students are a representation of all high school students, I am confidant in the future generation of business leaders. These students are absolutely amazing and are going to transform the business world as we know it. I am so glad that Digital Aptitude truly believes in helping to develop the next generation of business leaders through our involvement in programs like YEBW. Teenagers like the ones that attend YEBW continue to inspire me as well as teach me. So never assume teenagers can only learn from us, because we are actually the ones that truly learn from them.