Innovation should be left to Teenagers (and The Lazy)


This is nothing to do with any clever neuroscience about the ‘teenage brain’ and why they are ‘wonderfully creative and innovative young people’, blah, blah, blah….

It’s a rant.

A cheesed off, frustrated, parent of teenagers, fed up rant……

This is how it goes:

  • Tuesday night you lovingly prepare food for the teenagers.
  • You then do all of the dish washing  (they are too busy to help because of school/university assignments).
  • You leave them a single item of washing up near the kitchen sink.
  • Wednesday morning you leave home very early for work in a distant location that keeps you away for 2 nights.
  • Friday night you return home to find every surface in the kitchen covered with an assortment of; dishes, cooking implements, food wrappers, cutlery and other things that completely confuse you.
  • Buried at the back of the detritus is the item you left on Tuesday night. Proving nothing has been washed up since you last did it .
  • This is where the innovation comes in.
  • It turns out that the ‘things that confuse you’ are actually items that have been ‘re-purposed’ to allow the teenagers to continue their ‘plague of locusts’ advance through every edible item in the kitchen and surrounding environment.
  • The way that some of these things have been ‘re-purposed’ is actually quite imaginative, possibly innovative.
  • So, running through the ‘day of a teenager’* this is how it works. (*actually ‘day’ = ‘mostly night’, get up at 2pm, go to sleep about 3am).

Staple Diet – Bowls of Cereal

  • This generally requires; a bowl, a spoon, some cereals and milk.
  • Bowls and spoons do however require washing should you eventually run out of clean ones.
  • Washing dishes is something a bone idle teenage would never consider, so they get innovative:
  • How about, a flower vase and a fork? Make sure you don’t use a really long-necked vase though. That will require 2 litres of milk to float the Wheetos to the top.
  • A saucepan and a decorative wooden spoon. Very classy.
  • A really dodgy plastic bowl (probably a dog bowl) from some ancient camping equipment found lurking at the back of the cupboards – with plastic camping cutlery.
  • I could go on…….
  • How many bowls of cereal is it possible to eat in a single day?
  • If I had my way eating bowls of cereals would be illegal outside the hours of 5am -10am. No concessions.

Main Meals – Something Warmed Up

  • Basically something pre-prepared – that requires minimal teenage effort.
  • These can be homemade (to your very exacting requirements), lovingly cooked by your Mum, Dad, Grandmother or Uncle Alfie and placed on a dish in the fridge for you to ‘warm up’. Simple!
  • They can also be shop bought (but only the expensive stuff from Waitrose and none of the things your tight-fisted Dad buys in Aldi).
  • So, these things need a tray to sit on in the oven to warm them up.
  • A bit like cereal bowls the world has a finite supply of oven trays….although, I’ve just washed about 20 oven trays. We probably have more than a commercial kitchen!
  • This is where teenagers get innovative:
  • Use some of those disposable aluminium trays you found with the old camping equipment. Clever but not particularly innovative.
  • A metal shelf from a cupboard in the garage – hah! should have checked the paint wouldn’t burn and produce toxic smoke.
  • A metal hub cap – perfect for individual frozen pizzas. Nice one, there might be a future in that approach…..

IMG_4680The ‘power’ of Lazy Employees has gone mainstream, here’s the Dilbert Cartoon.

Details of who the ‘experts’ might be and where the idea originated at the end of the post.

Necessity (and a Teenager Slacker), the Mother of Invention. I suppose that’s what I’m getting at here. When you combine ‘necessity’ with slacker teenagers (lazy), you’ve got the perfect combination for innovation.

The trick is to get the teenagers working on problems we actually need solved.

One other thing…..spending some time writing about your frustrations with your teenage kids (having a rant) is extremely cathartic. I feel so much better now.

So, What’s the PONT?

  1. Necessity can be the ‘mother of invention’. Creating an environment that replicates the ‘necessity’ could help with innovation.
  2. There might be something in the Bill Gates quote, ‘give a difficult job to a lazy person’. Maybe we don’t appreciate the ‘special skills’ of ‘lazy’ people?
  3. Teenagers could be brilliant for innovation. Perhaps we should be ’employing’ more of them in this role?

Bill Gates Quote: There is some doubt that Bill Gates actually made this statement. In fact there is a claim it goes back to the 1920’s when it featured in Popular Science Monthly, and was attributed to Frank B. Gillbreth Sr. who was involved in workplace productivity studies. This article (link here) by Quote Investigator gives a very good summary of the origins of the quote.

Thanks to Charles Beauregard (see comments below) who alerted me to the ‘Attribution Matrix for Officers’ that was developed by Field Marshal Helmuth Moltke (Prussian Army) in the 1800’s. There is nothing new in the world…… I’m just wondering what ranks I will assign to my teenagers……

Image from wikipedia:


About WhatsthePONT

I'm from Old South Wales and I'm interested almost everything. Narrowing it down a bit: cooperatives, social enterprises, decent public services, complexity science, The Cynefin Framework, behavioural science and a sustainable future. In 2018/19 I completed a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, looking at big cooperative enterprises and social businesses in NE Spain and the USA. You can find out more here:

3 Responses

  1. Charles Beauregard

    The Bill Gates quote may come from even earlier. Check out field marshal Moltke’s four types of solider from the 1800s:

    Interesting that ‘dumb and hardworking’ is worse than ‘dumb abd lazy’ because they at least are too lazy to cause any damage. Makes me think of the modern workplace – not with dumb people necessarily, but people working very hard at doing dumb (non-value) work.

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