Interns – Our Disruptive Innovators

“Compared to other generations, millennials tend to be more collaborative, are accustomed to working in teams & have a passion for pressure.”
 Joanie ConnellFlying Without a Helicopter: How to Prepare Young People for Work and Life

I rememdownload (3)ber when I was younger how my dad would carry conversations with those younger than him. He always had a great deal of life in him and could easily embrace and relate to anyone. The way that he connected to college students, new graduates and those that have been out in the workforce for a few years made an impression on me – I wanted to be able to connect with them like that at his age too.

The time of the year that I look forward to most is the summer – when I get to work with interns; many of which are millennials and of the iGeneration. Some white-collar folks see internships just as obligations or society; others only give interns very specific business operational projects that have already been started for them. However, I don’t think that either is beneficial to them and they really aren’t the most beneficial for me either. What I like to get out of interns is their freshness of their minds.

Throughout life, we are encouraged to strive towards key objectives that maximize outcome and minimize waste. However, we get comfortable and learn to make decisions that ensure safety, but still progression within these valley walls. We get used to it and are left to circle in this local thought process without the idea to push outside or further.

This is why millenials are so special – they don’t feel the gravity of the same constraints that we fall accustomed to. Their minds can help to lead companies to exceptionally innovative practical solutions, a certain entrepreneurial quality. So, I try to work with them to frame the business challenge enough so they understand and then get out of their way. The end result will always be surprising, from an angle that never occurred to you before.


The best word to describe each new generation of the work force is “disruptive innovative” that was coined by Harvard Professor, Clayton Christensen. The diagram to the right demonstrates this concept. The blue line is companies with people that are experienced with status quo and work with constraints. They are the kings of sustaining innovation. The green line is companies that enter into the market without experience like the blue chips, but still manage to disrupt the market like interns in big organizations. Think about the electric utility industry. For each cash cow that goes back centuries, there are new green lines like Nest, Tendril, oPower and many more that are not traditional in any way.

Take interns seriously because in my opinion, they are a business opportunity. They have sculpted a new global view that I or you may not have dreamed of yet. Be thankful for their work they do for you and never take them for granted. A special thank you to all of the interns that I have worked with at


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