To many older people, Generation Z is a mystery. Defined roughly as those born since the mid-1990s, this cohort appears to many as lost, unfocused and scatterbrained. The media even goes so far as to portray Gen Z as robotic and lazy.
The notion is that this generation is deviating from the standard concept of the American Dream, and breaking with the culture and traditions their predecessors worked so hard to establish.
The reality, though, is that this bold new generation is a combination of all of our historical innovations paired with a new inclination for doing good.
In fact, Generation Z is following in the footsteps of one of the most influential and innovative Americans, Benjamin Franklin. Let’s look at a few of the traits Gen Z and Ben Franklin have in common.
1. Jack of many trades
Like Franklin, the up-and-coming generation refuses to settle for just one talent. This young group makes full use of all of their skills. The result is that they are fluent in a number of areas.
Like Ben Franklin, they might even choose to provide their talents to multiple employers. Franklin worked in a print shop, wrote extensively and served as postmaster in the United States Postal Service, as well as being involved in many other activities.
While one might be tempted to write off this generation of tech-savvy youngsters as lacking innovation skills, they’ve already produced young inventors the equal of Franklin. One of these is Param Jaggi, a fifteen-year-old who invented a device that attaches to the exhaust pipe of an automobile and converts carbon dioxide to oxygen.
It is inventors like Jaggi who will propel the world beyond oil dependence and help us avoid the consequences of an increasingly polluted earth.
2. A new type of innovative
Benjamin Franklin invented dozens of new technologies, among them the lightning rod, a foot-powered fan chair and the bifocal lens.
Generation Z may have grown up playing games on their phones, but that doesn’t mean they don’t create apps as well. Students today are participating in STEM programs and robotics competitions, and taking advanced programming courses unavailable to previous generations.
Just as Franklin left a world vastly different from the one he entered, Gen Z will leave a lasting legacy to which all future generations will owe a debt of gratitude.
3. Ability to express their voice
In the early days of the American Colonies, Benjamin Franklin helped establish the basic principles of the new democracy. His ideas were not popular at the time, but proved enormously influential.
Likewise, Gen Z is not afraid to speak out against the system. Now, with established politicians losing ground, many from Gen Z are calling for unique concepts like universal healthcare, a flat tax and the legalization of recreational marijuana. While it would be difficult to attribute any one stance or political party to Generation Z itself, it is safe to say that they are willing to speak their minds and rally against popular opinion.
Far from being a lazy, apathetic and entitled generation, Gen Zers are in fact outspoken innovators who have shown great promise in building a better tomorrow.
4. Ignoring the haters
When Benjamin Franklin was alive, he was not always well liked. Many of his crazy ideas were just that: crazy. They got him into arguments and made him plenty of enemies. But he never let the haters get to him.
Generation Z is the same way. They make a lot of bold moves, which are inevitably met by poor feedback. But rather than sheepishly back away from criticisms, they accept them and learn from their mistakes. Accepting feedback, good or bad, is a critical aspect for entrepreneurs. Young people are great at pulling useful feedback from noise, and can block out things that are distractions.
5. Collaborating with peers
Generation Z understands the importance of working with teams. That’s why we’ve seen an increase in the number of young people who identify as extroverts — because we know that people tend to work better in groups.
Collaboration is one of the most important skills being promoted by schools and fostered by children today. Franklin was a big fan of collaboration. He was the great compromiser, and knew how to work in groups in order to move the needle forward.
Generation Z knows the true value of building relationships, and they recognize that collaboration is the cornerstone of those relationships.
6. Social issues matter
Ben Franklin is well known for his opinions on social and political issues. He was one of the most vocal activists of his time.
Similarly, Gen Zers are not afraid to make their opinions known. This group of young people is not afraid to use their voices as drivers for change with causes they care about. They are extremely active in political, social and economic issues, and have already made a significant impact on the traditional world we live in today.
It takes remarkable courage for anyone, let alone a young person, to go against the status quo in the hopes of creating a more liberal world. Like Ben Franklin’s fight, we can expect their passion to meet with success in the long run. We just have to continue to give Gen Z a chance.