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As a mother of a newly inducted teenager (a 13 year old daughter), I’ve always been astonished by how technology is intrinsic in her. She is so nimble when she navigates through her electronic devices (mainly the iPhone). She can send an email to her teacher informing that she will be arriving to school late because of an orthodontist appointment, almost simultaneously text her BFF about how much she hates her braces, SnapChat a picture of the new, brightly colored rubber bands on her teeth and “like” 5 posts on Instagram in under two minutes. I’ve witnessed it first hand.

In my assessment of her abilities, I wondered how she measures up to other kids her same age and grade. Recent holiday parties, mall trips, get-togethers and conversations with other parents have provided me with solid confirmation that middle and high school kids in general have this innate ability. Most of them have the technological dexterity to manage 3 to 4 apps in a virtually concurrent manner and complete tasks in record time. This observation led to my conclusion that 12-18 year old students are a particularly underused unit when we are looking to ideate, create, iterate, and instigate. This group of individuals is the next generation of innovators.

Very frequently, we see partnerships and alliances between corporations and colleges/universities. But not much in the area of middle and high school students. There are numerous STEM programs that are focused to train girls to excel in the technological arts, but we are not truly employing their vast mechanical awareness, regardless of their gender. We have a lot to offer them, but they have so much more to offer us. Because of the era that they are a part of, they are less bound by technological conventions. This translates to more obscure user behaviors and “testing” a system or an app to its maximum capacity. This is why learning about innovation through the eyes of these students is critical to the future success of SAP. Partnering with these students will give us a dynamic advantage. They will challenge us to be simple yet demand that we are effective in uncovering new ways to solve problems.

They also want to be challenged, but since they are a generation of instant gratification, “Running Simple” is imperative. If a task or an app is too complicated, it will be abandoned, socially executed, and forever deemed useless. These Early Innovators are experts in the areas of the internet of things, cloud computing, touch technology, social media, virtual communication, mobility and user experience. They are vocal, unabridged, critical thinkers that will give us a competitive edge because they are an extremely underused market.

So why aren’t we consulting with these youth? What better way to strengthen OUR technical prowess by infusing middle and high school students into our communities? This powerful group will be a huge step in keeping us rich and relevant. This relevance will be a result of consuming the high level of technological wisdom, user behavior, and creativity that is instinctual within this group. Innovation for this crew is a sixth sense and because of their organic immersion into the world of gamification, touch technology, virtual communication, etc – we need to tap into it!

SAP is a noteworthy socially responsible corporation. I feel encouraged and compelled to help advance this effort. Furthermore, I am determined to nourish the INNOVATION legacy that our leaders have challenged us to surpass. The Early Innovators Program is the embodiment of social and digital transformation. It will engage early talent and enrich the construct between sales and marketing. It will make us superior innovators and will fulfill the Entrepreneurial spirit that SAP inspires us all to have.

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  1. Maggie Fox

    Charrele, I heard you on teenagers’ use of digital tools and technology, but I’m in a funny situation, where mine (keeping true to teenage rebellion principles) refuses to use social media at all. And hey? Perhaps this is also an innovation – he’s determined to be more present, and when we’re together, wants all of us to be mindful, rather than having our faces in our phones!

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