“Digitally Native” Manifests at Inaugural Young Digital Leaders Awards

“Young Digital Leader” is a title that has an exciting swagger to it. I imagine digitally-savvy, entry-level hot shot college grads in suits or bespectacled super-geeks with “disruptive” ideas that will take their VCs to the next IPO heaven. So it came as a pleasant surprise last week to know that I had imagined wrong. What I, and about a dozen creative directors from London, saw at the inaugural Young Digital Leaders Awards actually turned out to be ordinary, in the most extraordinary way. For all the ‘disruptiveness’ of the ideas presented, the competitors were solving real, ordinary problems for real, ordinary people. From encouraging people to start gardening, to young start-ups serving niche demands and creating employment opportunities, to improving the way people interface with technology, the ideas presented fit into people’s lives and made everyday living better.

What I also noticed is a generational shift away from looking at ‘digital’ as something extraordinary. It was no longer put on a pedestal. Instead, these ideas solved real problems in a wider, more expansive sense of the word. The competitors used digital technologies to complement how people are living now. Digital wasn’t a big deal, it was simply part of the process. There was still an occasional hot shot or super-geek ‘digital’ entry, but for the most part, these were young problem solvers, solving problems cleverly.

I couldn’t help but connect the dots back to health. Last year at Cannes we saw digital innovation bubbling up in the most unlikely corners of the world and led by a generation to which digital just came naturally. Innovation led not by self-conscious brands acting digital, but by people who have grown up in a different world. As these problem solvers mature into seasoned marketers, I can only imagine how the conversation will shift. Doubts of today will get replaced by this natural ease of tomorrow, liberating ideas. The Young Digital Leaders of today are already setting a bar that the rest of us must prepare for.