Future generations won't discuss dissatisfaction, they'll build something new instead
Future generations won't discuss dissatisfaction, they'll build something new instead
A view from Matt Webb

Future innovation depends on the 'kids coding' generation

There's a new generation coming that won't just talk about dissatisfaction, they'll go off and build something better, says Matt Webb, global CTO of HeathWallace....

Younger children asked better questions than their older counterparts

Teaching has become a passion of mine. HeathWallace has worked for many years with Reading University on a tech course for students. We’ve also run training for teenagers and then, last December, organised our first "coding for kids" course aimed at a group of 6-to-11-year-olds.

Open minds, dirty hands

What soon became apparent was that the younger children asked better questions than their older counterparts. They weren’t worried about the tech itself, they just assumed they could build anything, whether it was an app or a website, and they went on and did it. They had open minds and dirty hands.

Children today are born into a world where technology has surpassed innovation

Young children are different to my generation or even to today’s college students. They’re willing to accept failure, try things and allow them to fail first.

Children today are born into a world where technology has surpassed innovation. What we need to see is innovation matching the pace of technology. This will be fuelled by a new mindset that is geared towards making more from the rapid growth of technology, as opposed to minds like ours that are limited by years of not doing things with tech.

Modular and flexible

Looking to the future, a failure to embrace this spirit could hinder us. The marketing world is starting to realise this. Agencies have embraced progressive planning systems from the likes of Adobe which take data from all platforms (mobile, point of sale, outdoor), adapting apps and web content to make messages and content highly modular and flexible to the individual.

Younger people crave products with maximum adaptability that allows them to build the finished item themselves

Manufacturers and developers need to understand that modular products such as Cube mobile phones point to a future where everything is adaptable. Coding kids don’t expect or want a finished product. If you hand a 50-year-old a modular phone then they probably don’t want it. People in their 30s might mod it once and then leave it alone. But younger people crave products with maximum adaptability that allows them to build the finished item themselves.

Just build it

A big problem at the moment is that people are imagining things to fix specific problems and stopping there. Take 3D printing. The kids coding today wouldn’t just stop with a 3D printing solution but open their minds to all mediums. So the result could be a 3D printed network of flying drones to conduct heart operations. Their attitude is one of ‘just build it’.

Future generations will work in an open-source way to develop innovation that has broader application beyond a specific product

The ‘Internet of Things’ is a good example of an area that is hampered by closed thinking. It seems an exciting world full of possibility but currently there is very little open mindedness and group experimentation. Individual companies are going off and building their own products for the kitchen or elsewhere in the home and just stopping there. Future generations will work in an open-source way to develop innovation that has broader application beyond a specific product.

Open spirit

This open spirit is naturally bubbling under but we should do everything we can to encourage it. At the moment tech and product development is dominated by 40-to-50-year old blokes with grey hair who talk a lot about innovation coming from smaller companies. We need to extend this thinking, to embrace the idea that innovation comes from the young. This starts with teaching but we in industry can encourage it too. We can wait for it to happen and be stuck with a generation of 50-year-olds justifying their jobs but real innovation will come from us encouraging, in just a few years’ time, the kids of today to come in and shake-up our businesses.

I heard somebody say the other day that the "largest cost in business is dissatisfaction". The coding kids of today won’t put up with that, they’ll just go off and build something better.