Young minds, think free

digital transformation sixth form lecture
We were delighted to welcome Clayesmore Governor Major General Stokoe to deliver the Sixth Form lecture on capturing the power of the imagination and skills of our nation’s young people. Major General Stokoe has a wealth of experience in efficient business transformation, particularly from the science, technology, construction and infrastructure services sectors.

His main message to our sixth formers was to hang on to their inquisitive minds in the adult world and to continue to think differently and freely, unfettered by the institutionalised thinking of the corporate world and the limitations of adult minds. “This school is particularly good at allowing you to think,” he said “but once you leave school, you have to watch out for being harnessed, conditioned in the way you think.” He argued that the conditioning of minds starts already at university, and it only intensifies in business with new ideas and proposals often being met with the resigned “You can’t do that, it doesn’t follow company process, it’s against guidelines.” And so the enormous power of the individual, and the new, is wasted.

Mr Stokoe urged Clayesmorians to never lose the ability to challenge and question, but to keep asking ‘what if?’ and ‘why not?’ as the uncluttered mind of youth, given freedom to operate free, is a powerful asset. 

Data, he argued, is fast becoming a core business asset, alongside people and culture as essential elements of growth, profitability and competitiveness. Technology and digitalisation are instrumental in business transformation, but people are the asset paramount to success. Though much has been made of the promise of machine learning and artificial intelligence, ultimately there is no replacement for the human brain, as machines cannot actually think — only people can.

Technology, however, has shaped, and is shaping, the lifestyle of the young and the way they think and act. In their minds, nothing is impossible and experimentation is carried out fearlessly. This generation is simply not afraid of change in the way a large part of adults are. They embrace digital transformation and are natives of the virtual world.

But Major General Stokoe had one watch-out in the realm of digitalisation: speed of thought and the dilemma social media presents for communication. “Give yourselves thinking time,” he advised our sixth formers, “construct your words carefully.” Reflection is important to convey the true meaning of words amidst the instantaneous transmission of messages.

The students demonstrated the power of their thinking by discussing topics ranging from the digitalisation of healthcare to the role of digital technology in creating efficiencies in global food production and distribution. It is clear that Clayesmorians certainly embody the promise and the potential of future transformation.

Speaking after the event, Major General Stokoe said: “The students rose to the challenge and demonstrated encouraging confidence and ambition in the way they could influence the manner in which the business world is changing as it embraces the Fourth Industrial Revolution of digitisation and automation. With such clarity of thought, I am confident that they will have a significant and successful part to play in transforming our uncertain and volatile commercial and social environment.”

Sixth formers listening to a lecture on digitalisation