By Laura Le Gal
The events of the past few months suggest there is a sharp divide between the way the young and old think in the UK. However, at the recent Estates Gazette roundtable entitled “Property’s next generation: the change agents”, the consensus among younger professionals in the industry was that the older generation is listening to them more than ever.
With the tide turning against some of the “old, traditional ways”, according to British Land attendee James Rolton, we are bound to see the ideas of the next generation playing more and more of a central role in the way we do things.
Held as part of the London Real Estate Forum 2016, it was an honour to be invited to take part in the event, which gathered 20 millenials across firms such as British Land, Knight Frank, The Collective, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Leadlease.
The roundtable at Mr. Fogg’s Residence in Mayfair © Garry Castel, Modo Publishing
Emily Wright, features and global editor at the Estates Gazette chaired the discussion, which centred on who the next generation is and how they can help shape the future of the built environment.
So what do the next generation think?
Below are five of the most salient points I took from the conversation:
- What’s the definition of “next generation”?
It’s not just a matter of age – the term encapsulates individuals who were also “wanting to set the world on fire”, as well as having reached a certain professional maturity (around 10-15 years’ experience) and the influence that comes with it.
- What are the new challenges of the modern workplace?
The fact that the next generation needs to be adaptable, flexible, and open to change if they want to be successful. Stability, lifelong employment in a single company, or even doing the same job one’s whole life are not something this group is likely to experience. The world is rapidly changing and technology will increasingly affect the way we live and work.
- What is the next generation known for?
While tech was seen as being synonymous with millennial-led innovation, there was some debate over whether there is more to the story than CRE tech (commercial real estate technology). Design also has the power to “address real social problems” and change people’s lives.
- What are the biggest challenges or opportunities the next generation faces?
The public sector is not as innovative as some of the private sector, often putting up barriers to unconventional new ideas, because they don’t fit in the boxes and regulations already in place. Governments and councils need to attract young people with dynamic ideas, and give them the power to change things.
- How are the next generation changing the industry?
Alternative development projects led by ambitious young entrepreneurs – eg Boxpark and The Collective – reduce the red tape and project timelines from start to completion. The Collective CEO Reza Merchant described his company as providing an alternative form of living and working, purposefully designed for young people.
It’s worth making one final point, that the majority of the participants of the roundtable were male and Caucasian. If we are to design for an increasingly diverse society, then increasing diversity within the sector is a challenge we must all meet head-on.
However if the energy, expertise and passion of this particular group of individuals is anything to go by and the fresh and exciting ideas that they brought to the debate, it feels like there won’t be much that we can’t achieve and change if we put our minds to it.
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