Ten things I learned at One Young World


By Jonny Jacobs, ICAS One Young CA 2017

ICAS One Young CA 2017 Jonny Jacobs reflects on his experience at the One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia, and shares the lessons he will take forward.

“The political, social and economic past of Colombia made it the perfect location for One Young World 2017,” explained Jonny.

“Not only to reflect on the past but also to discuss and plan how best to tackle today’s most pressing global issues. Finance professionals are incredibly well placed to do this as we operate all over the world and in every area of business. I’m incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity and to take away these important lessons.”

1. Everyone has a voice

Kofi Annan, Ghanaian diplomat and former seventh Secretary General to the UN, said this in his keynote speech: “You are never too young to lead, act and take charge where you can.”

He shared his experiences of peace negotiations and explained how the best leaders are the best listeners. On the final day of the Summit, he advocated establishing common trust between parties, being fully inclusive, and giving everyone a voice. For me, these traits are needed in business to drive significant change.

2. Titles don’t define you

Despite the expectation that half of the workforce will be millennials within five years, under 30s only make up 2% of politicians worldwide. Einstein said: “You cannot solve problems with the same minds that created them.”

As an accountant, some people have a stereotypical view of the value you can bring to an organisation. However, I’m a great believer in operating outside your space, contributing to the wider agenda and moving beyond the confines of your core role.

3. Having a clear purpose is vital

Knowing what drives us is incredibly important and when we are clear on our purpose, great things can happen. However, a reported 87% of employees are not engaged in their jobs – the work for us as leaders is to inspire a sense of pride and purpose in others.

4. Leaders create leaders

After a presentation from a young leader not speaking in his first language, I turned to a fellow delegate and commented how proud and impressed I was that he did that in front of 1,500 people. The delegate replied: “I’m proud of the senior executive who encouraged him to do it.”

Our teams often reflect our own style. In that moment, I learnt something I won’t forget.

5. We need emotional intelligence

One of the questions asked at the Summit was: “How do we train the younger generations for jobs that don’t yet exist?” The answer? Teach people how to respond to change, become better learners and build emotional intelligence.

It shouldn’t take being in a company that runs a Myers-Briggs session to understand the personalities surrounding you. I’ve been highlighting for some time now that our educational system should provide this fundamental life training. Just think how much more connected, happy and productive we would all be if we understood the people around us.

6. Leadership comes in a range of styles

Each of the speakers challenged themselves and their peers to achieve their goals with their own style: from Peter Schwarzenbauer, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, whose smile was infectious and clearly had a great rapport with his team, to Colombian President and Nobel Peace Laureate Juan Manuel Santos, who encouraged us all to make the impossible possible, and to inspirational 19-year-old Abraham Keita, who made a stand for his sister’s rights at the age of nine.

7. Happiness leads to success

The Mayor of Bogotá focussed on something close to my heart: maintaining happiness. I am a great believer that people operate at their best when they are happy.

Despite the belief that performance peaks during times of high stress, it’s difficult to sustain long-term. In my team, we monitor the happiness index and ask a couple of simple questions: How happy are you? How can we make you happier?

8. Technology is empowering change

“This is the most powerful generation with the emergence of transformational tech… and as young people, we should focus on being the job creators,” declared Noble Peace Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus.

With this remark in the opening ceremony, it was clear there would be a heavy focus on the role of technology, entrepreneurship, and the power of youth, and how to use these as an unstoppable force for positive change.

We heard from Jérôme Jarre, a French entrepreneur and activist that set up a movement called Love Army For Somalia, on how he was using mobile payments and Facebook networks to tackle poverty, Lord Michael Hastings, KPMG’s Global Head of Citizenship, spoke about the power of social media against racism, Tinie Tempah explained technology’s role in social mobility, and speakers from BMW shared how we can make dreams a reality by “setting big ambitions, being stubborn on achieving them, but flexible in the execution.”

Technology and entrepreneurship are empowering young people and will disrupt traditional societal structures and institutions. It will be those who respond quickly that will thrive in years to come.

9. Mistakes are not failures

I’m a big believer in personal growth, both for individuals and for high-performing teams. The best development arises from overcoming mistakes, gaining experiences, or asking challenging questions. Companies that create the right culture to foster these opportunities will easily see the rewards.

10. Change can happen in the moment

Caroline Casey, a visual impairment activist, petitioned the crowd to add disability to their board agendas. In a moment filled with hope and emotion, over 10 CEOs from global companies rose to the stage, including Ronan Dunne (Verizon) and Paul Polman (Unilever).

As a Trustee of Aspire, the UK spinal cord injury that supports people paralysed by an injury to independence, I was particularly touched by this huge statement of intent created by the community of One Young World.

This article was first published on 17 October 2017 here: https://www.icas.com/ca-today-news/10-things-i-learned-at-one-young-world