Millennial Innovators Beware...ahem Prepare!

Young people -- a topic of conversation around the board room table in the upper echelons of governments. We need more young people in the service. They are the future of the service. They have good ideas. We need to provide opportunities to get involved. And growth challenges. How do we attract and retain them?

The time is ripe for the next generation of public servants to make their mark on the future of public policy. A giant wave of retirements is poised to wash through government offices, creating problems and opportunities in positions of all shapes and sizes.

And that is only half of the situation. Governments are already under water on another wave. All of them are trying to catch up to the digital, real-time reality of today's consumers and citizens, all while responding to tough economic times.

So, this is really cool. Young people will get a chance to put their skills to the test, take on leadership opportunities and be innovators in a wide variety of fields throughout the public sector. Right on. LOL

But, millennial innovators need to be aware and prepare for what is in front of them. In fact anyone who wants to spark an innovative change needs to know...

Innovators are vulnerable. So here is a reality check.

You want to succeed, a desire to do well and make a difference. You have a fire burning in you. You're fearless. You're an inspiration and a role model. People will surely see what you're doing and want to join in.

You are an anomaly. Expect others to be nervous, jealous and skeptical. Expect barriers, new and old. There will be risk aversion. There will be sabotage. Your creativity will be stifled and your ideas will be picked apart. You will feel unappreciated. You will want to give up.

You are good and you are right. That is all that matters and you can get it done.

But change impacts other people. And you will be the focus of their discontent. Be prepared to stave off personal attacks about your efficacy, intentions and performance. You will feel discouraged. You will be hurt.

You can count on your professional relationships and the support of those who know you. Your friends and family are behind you and want you to succeed.

You are a rare bird in a well-established, bureaucratic, conforming environment. Your peers will fall to the pressure of others. You will feel like an outsider. You will lose important relationships. You have devoted so much of yourself to your work, that you realize you have failed to give proper attention to your personal and family commitments. You realize you feel alone.

Millennial innovators are going to change the world.

You are going to be wildly successful and your talents will be in demand. Your career will be set. People will give you what you need to succeed. You will be able to support yourself and your family.

You are putting your livelihood at risk. All successful innovators have failed, been pushed aside or fired in the pursuit of good ideas. And innovation costs money. Even though an innovation might pay off, it's always a risk. Know that the resources at your disposal are always at risk of being plundered.

Your personal life and your professional life are two different things. Even if things go wrong, you'll carry on.

When you care deeply about a problem or an idea, and things don't go as you would expect, it will touch everything. You might not be able to sleep, you won't eat or you'll eat too much. You may suffer depression. You may find yourself in conflict with those you love most in the world.

If this reality check feels familiar, it should. It's loosely modeled on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

To put it super simply, the idea is that people feel anxious if their basic needs aren't met. When they feel anxious, they can't perform. Ergo, they won't be able to innovate.

This is where it gets interesting. The very pursuit of innovation jeopardizes all of a persons basic needs. Innovation is anxiety-ridden. Innovators thrive in that ambiguity. The tension supports them. They rise.

So if reading this article made you think, "Hah, I'll show you lady," then welcome to the club of super elite innovators.

Innovation is its own reward. You will gain much more than you lose. You will surprise yourself if with your achievements, build new and lasting relationships, succeed and even thrive.

Sure, yes this is a cautionary tale. But it is also an invitation. The public service needs people who are willing to take on this challenge. It will test every part of you. But if you know what's at stake, you can do a better job riding the waves.