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Outdoor Economy

The Millennial Generation Holds the Future of the Outdoor Economy

The future of the outdoor economy is going to be largely determined by the “Millennial Generation” and their interest in the outdoors. It will be critical for outdoor entrepreneurs to take time to learn how the next generation views outdoor education, trips and travel in order to prepare for the trends.

Girl Contemplating

Who are the Millennials?

Definitions and names for the Millennial Generation vary. The name “Millennial Generation” usually refers to people born between the 1980s and early 2000s (also called Generation Y). Millennials are often discussed in general as individuals in developed countries that have grown up immersed in technology and have experienced dramatic changes in the economy. Some studies have shown that the rising cost of education and living expenses may have caused many to return home to their parents for a period of time which has led some media to refer to them as the Boomerang or Peter Pan Generation. Studies have also shown that a large number of Millennials often look for flexibility in work and social responsibilities. Millennials are also characterized as confident, self expressive and open to new ideas.

Although these sweeping generalizations may be true for a large segment of the Millennial Generation, studies have shown that they are far from a homogeneous monolith. There are wide variations in individuals of the same generation within immigrants, minorities, geography, gender, economic status and those with and without children. One thing is certain, this generation is a powerful force to be reckoned with.

Guy in Canoe

Millennials and the Outdoors?

For most Millennials in developed countries, computers, smartphones, and social media have become part of their daily lives and has shaped their view of the world. Many youth that have grown up with an indoor, plugged in lifestyle tend to be hyperconnected to social networks and often feel disconnected from the natural world. A study by the Nature Conservancy shows that 88% of American youth say they spend time on-line every day while less than 40% participate in hiking, fishing, or natural areas on a weekly basis. Research by IDEO for the “Retail of the Future Project” has shown that many Millennials refer to the “outdoors” as places near their home where they can interact socially. Still, there are numbers of Millennials that have enthusiastically taken to outdoor recreation. Numerous reports show that Millennials are more interested in experiences rather than collecting things. Out of the millions of people who participate in outdoor activities, the largest groups were Baby Boomers and Millennials. Studies show that a large number of Millennials are interested in adventure travel, especially with friends. There are strong groups of young outdoor enthusiasts such as Outdoor Nation (ON), a non-profit founded by a community of Millennials who are dedicated to reconnecting members of their generation to the outdoors by hosting summits, awarding grants, leading outdoor outings, and working with youth.

Why should outdoor entrepreneurs be interested in Millennials?

Millennials are currently the largest generation of consumers with more than 80 million in their ranks.  There is a tremendous opportunity for outdoor entrepreneurs to grow the outdoor economy instead of competing for market share.. They are larger than the Baby Boomers and 20% larger than Generation X. According to a recent report by Barkleys, Millennials currently make up 21% of consumer discretionary purchases and have a combined purchasing power of over a trillion dollars. Their influence on the outdoor economy will be larger than anyone else in the next century and cannot be ignored. They can easily get hooked on adventure and exploration once they have been exposed to it. There is huge, untapped potential to reconnect this generation to the world that they have inherited. Outdoor entrepreneurs that address the needs and motivations of Millennials will be in the best position to succeed.

Why should Millennials be interested in the outdoors?

Outdoor education can help develop skills that are highly sought after in the job market. According to a 2011 study, companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on outdoor experiential education designed to develop leadership skills, teamwork skills, communication skills, problem-solving skills and trust (Brymer, Gray, & Cotton 2011). Many companies are seeking individuals who are environmentally literate to develop new innovations in science, engineering, and technology. The field of “Biomimicry” has also been gaining considerable momentum over the last century. Outdoor recreation itself is a multi-billion dollar industry that continues to grow rapidly as one of the largest industries in the world. Also, numerous studies have shown that physical activity in outdoor settings can greatly improve one’s mental and physical well being. There are opportunities to connect with the outdoor community of vibrant individuals who tend to live healthy lifestyles and have a well-developed awareness of the world. Outdoor recreation is also a whole lot of fun where one can build lasting memories with people they care about!

How to reach Millennials?

Although there are large variations in the Millennial Generation, there are some things that are fairly consistent. Getting online and social media savvy is a must. Studies show that Millennials often plan ahead for travel and look to their friends and social networks before purchasing. Price and convenience tend to play the largest role in their buying decisions according to some studies, although quality and service remain high priorities. Opportunities to connect with friends and family in a meaningful way are important to most Millennials. Unique experiences that are fun and enjoyable are appealing to them. Millennials are more likely to align themselves with companies that support a cause they believe in than any other generation before them. They are well informed and able to conduct research at the touch of their fingertips. Also, educating parents on the benefits of outdoor recreation remains important not just for the Millennials who have moved back home under the influence of their parents, but also because many Millennials have become parents themselves. A 2012 study showed that the 31 million Millennial parents tend to be conscious of health, the environment, social causes, saving money, and raising kids with strong family values.

The main thing to remember when reaching out to this generation is to speak honestly and conversationally do not insult their intelligence. It will be important to communicate the mutual benefits for the outdoor economy and for the Millennial Generation and the generations that they will influence.

 

Ref:

Live Science:  Millennials Generation

Barkley: American Millennials 

Nature.org:  Kids in Nature 

Outdoor Industry Research Files

Outdoor Recreation and Tourism

Biomimicry

Outdoor Nation

Outdoor Industry 

Benefits of Environmental Education

Experiential Training for Leadership Development

Adventure Travel News: Outdoor Retail

Entrepreneur Magazine: If You Want Millennials to Love You, Market to their Mothers

 

Outdoor Entrepreneurs on Public Land: Risk, Reward, and Government Shutdown

A look into the benefits and history of public lands and national parks and the risks of doing business with the government

Public lands are incredibly valuable to the economy and often bring a sense of national pride and enjoyment. 48% of entrepreneurs surveyed by Small Business Majority agreed that access to public lands and other outdoor opportunities was a large reason why they live and do business in their state and “90% believe public spaces that draw tourists could boost business for local restaurants, hotels, grocery stores and more for drawing visitors”. There are many outdoor entrepreneurs who have carved out a successful niche tied to public lands that provides them with a prosperous and enjoyable lifestyle. Yet, there are also risks and sacrifice when your business is tied to land controlled by the government.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, there are over 6,555 national parks worldwide that are defined as: “conservation of wild nature for posterity and as a symbol of national pride”. The United States is a recognized leader in the history of preservation of public land starting with president Andrew Jackson signing legislation to protect the Arkansas Hot Springs in 1832, then President Abraham Lincoln signing the Yosemite Grant in 1864, and President Ulysses S. Grant signing legislation to establish Yellowstone National Park as the first internationally recognized National Park in the world in 1872. Later, Theodore Roosevelt greatly expanded land conservation by protecting more than 150 million acres of public land and establishing 5 national parks during his lifetime. The efforts of private citizens like Galen Clark and John Muir were instrumental in influencing government officials in order to make conservation legislation happen. Today, the United States has 401 sites and 84 million acres of land under the protection of the National Park Service. The majority of national parks provide outdoor recreation and environmental education opportunities for millions of visitors every year.

YosemiteOne of the most famous of these parks in the United States is Yosemite National Park. Yosemite was given it’s name in 1851 by Lafayette Bunnell, a doctor who spent time with indian hunters of the Mariposa Battalion and misunderstood “Yosemite” as the name of the Ahwahneechee tribe that the Battalion was searching for. “Yohhhe’meti” actually meant “they are killers” in the native language of the Ahwahneechee referring to the soldiers. In 1890, President Benjamin Harrison signed a law that protected 1500 acres in the Yosemite Valley. Thanks to an epic meeting between John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt in the Yosemite Valley in 1903, the protection was expanded to the surrounding mountains and eventually to the 761,268 acres protected in the park today.

 

Over 3.7 million people visit Yosemite each year to hike through the 800 miles of trails among the giant Seqouias, rock climb the granite boulders or 3300ft peak of El Capitan, ski through the majestic slopes in winter, or raft the Merced River. Many outdoor entrepreneurs, guides, and park rangers lead groups on various excursions through the park’s vast expanses of biodiversity.

On Yosemite’s 123rd birthday, all visitors are being sent home and businesses are being shut down. This is true for all the government run national parks and wildlife refuges across the United States. Over 21,379 National Park employees are being furloughed due to the government shutdown that happened October 1, 2013.

That is just one of the risks of doing business on public land.

It often takes a lot of work to wade through the bureaucracy in order to get a permit to provide a service in a national park or wildlife refuge. Permits can sometimes be granted through an application process. There are also opportunities to bid on government contracts in order to become a concessionaire. If one should become fortunate enough to win the bid, they must operate under the strict guidelines outlined in the contract. The benefits will sometimes result in the exclusive right to run certain trips and provide services on the land. This can be very rewarding and give access to places where others are forbidden. Some issues can arise from the strict scheduling, pricing, and numbers of clients that are allowed at one time. All of that needs to be taken into consideration before accepting the terms of the contract. I know many operators who have done very well providing ferry tours to national parks and wildlife refuges, although sometimes they are required to run regardless of the number of passengers.  They count on the times of plenty to make up for the slow times.  It can sometimes be a delicate balancing act.

There are many risks and rewards for doing business on public land. Any entrepreneur who is interested in going through the process must consider all the consequences before taking action. Try to go through every scenario and make a plan. Many things can affect your business that are beyond your control, even a government shutdown.

How does Outdoor Recreation Inspire Scientific Discovery and Innovation?

 

BenFranklinDuplessis

Did Ben Franklin discover Kite-boarding?

“When Ben Franklin was 9, his eldest brother was lost at sea, still Ben never lost his love for the water.

On a pleasant day, while young Ben was flying a kite, he decided to go for a swim.  Still wanting to fly his kite but reluctant to leave the water, it occurred to him he need not forgo one diversion for the other.  While in the water he let the kite pull him across the pond without the least fatigue and the greatest pleasure imaginable!”

(“Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv)

Could this event have led Ben Franklin to discover electricity and kite boarding!?

Ben Franklin did spend a lot of time playing outside as a child and was insatiably curious about what he encountered. Franklin’s curiosity would later inspire him to write theories about electricity, weather, ocean currents, and other discoveries that influenced many of the innovators who would follow.

Many scientists and inventors that have led to the technology and inventions we take for granted today have been inspired by their time recreating outside and observing nature.  Nikola Tesla was known to take long walks and spend time at the park contemplating his many theories.  Much of the modern wireless technology was developed from his ideas. 

How does Outdoor Recreation in natural areas inspire innovation?

Outdoor recreation in natural areas has been shown to improve mental and physical well-being.  According to a number of studies conducted over the last 25 years, unstructured physical activity in the outdoors inspires natural curiosity, improves social and emotional development, enhances perception and motor skills, builds creativity, encourages self-expression, and develops appreciation for the environment.

In a Janaury 2005 Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Burdette and Whitaker show that free play outdoors promotes problem solving and decision making, which is one of the highest executive functions.  Several small studies along with surveys of parents and teachers have shown that free play also reduces attention deficit disorder and improves focus.

Our experiences shape the way we view the world.

Children that play outside see themselves as part of a larger ecosystem and are exposed to natural laws. Children that spend time in the natural world are less fearful of it.

Many people in the developed world spend most of their time disconnected from the outside world.  From their home, to the car, to school or the office and back, people do everything they can to keep a barrier between them and nature.  The average American child spends less than 30 minutes in outdoor unstructured play.  Studies have shown that the sedentary, plugged in lifestyle may be responsible for the 200% rise in obesity and trepidation in the outdoors. A 2009 study showed that 62% of children surveyed in developed countries had a fear of natural events such as snow, thunder, and rain.  Inventors like Franklin and Tesla embraced natural events as opportunities to gain a better understanding of the world.

Outdoor Recreation is exercise for your brain.

Physical activity in natural areas has also been shown to increase attentiveness and greatly improve the brains ability to learn and retain information. Physical activity causes the brain to function more efficiently through a process called neurogenesis, where new brain cells are produced stimulating BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor), which has been nicknamed “fertilizer for the brain”.

“Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning” according to Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey, author of the book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.  Some of the highest performing schools in math and science in the world are incorporating physical activity as part of the curriculum. “Exercise and the Brain” has been the focus of several courses led by Wendy Suzuki, associate professor of neuroscience at New York University.

Outdoor recreation is not just Childsplay.

Canadian researchers found that physical activity greatly improved the cognitive function and physical well-being of elderly adults analyzed over two to five years in a 2011 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

An understanding of nature is being encouraged by many businesses.  Companies such as IBM, GE, Boeing, Airbus, Nike, Levi’s, Johnson & Johnson and others are now encouraging their engineers to spend time observing nature in order to design the products of the future. The study of natural systems has led to incredible nature inspired innovations on desalinating water, architectural design, powerful adhesives, medicines, aviation design, and extremely strong and lightweight materials.

 

766px-Kitesurfer_in_closeup_exmouth_devon_arpOutdoor recreation has also been shown to reduce employee stress and stress related absences causing an increase in productivity and morale in the work place.

“Let My People Go Surfing” was the attitude and book title of Yvon Choinand, CEO of Patagonia. He attributes Patagonia’s increase in sales from $20 million to $100 million from the mid 1980s to 1990 to the culture of happy, motivated people that worked for the company and often went recreating outdoors during lunch breaks and weekends.

Whether raising a child, improving grades, stimulating a business, or developing the next genius, breakthrough invention, it might be time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors!

Lessons from the Mountain: Outdoor Education for Entrepreneurs

Mountain Morgue

 

Lessons from the Mountain

One of the best places to contemplate is on top of a mountain.  There are so many things that can be learned and applied to one’s business and life from the process of climbing a mountain.  Those that hike with their mind open learn different things from the journey.  There are several schools and education programs that use outdoor skills to teach team building, leadership and life lessons.

Entrepreneurs can learn a lot from climbing a mountain.  About 7 years ago, I climbed Mount Whitney with Mark Victor Hansen and Robert Allen.  (Mark Victor Hansen is a speaker and famed co-creator of the “Chicken Soup for The Soul” series.  Robert Allen is a renowned author, entrepreneur and real estate guru).  We climbed together with a group of entrepreneurs on a trip organized by my friend Werner Berger, who is a business strategist who once broke the record as the oldest man to climb Mount Everest.  Our group had been watching Mark and Robert speak and teach from a stage over the prior weeks where they were very comfortable.   The hike to Mount Whitney was the first time we had the opportunity to interact in a situation where we all had to overcome challenges together in unfamiliar, treacherous territory.  We learned a lot about each of our strengths, limitations, and the value of teamwork.   It does not matter how much fame and fortune you have attained, when you are crossing a steep, snow covered slope that drops thousands of feet off a cliff, everyone is on the same playing field.  The view from the summit made it all worth it.

Robert Allen often uses his experience of a previous dangerous hike he had taken as a lesson to illustrate the following:

The best fishing holes are usually found in the most difficult to reach places. Those that do what it takes to make the trip and overcome adversary, reap the benefits.

A few lessons that I took from the experience of climbing Mount Whitney were:

Be prepared
It is easier to get somewhere if you know where you are going.  It is smart to study the terrain you will be hiking and get a rough idea of what you are in for.  Make sure you have the right supplies and are prepared for emergencies.  You should also have an idea of who you will be climbing with.  A plan can help you avoid some real problems and help you have a much more enjoyable experience.  If things don’t go according to the plan, be ready to improvise with good judgment.

Keep steady and be persistent
The secret for reaching new heights really comes down to putting one foot in front of the other.  Learn from those who have come before you to chart your course.  Then keep chugging along with dogged persistence.  If you work as a team, your strengths are multiplied.

Bring a good guide
A competent guide is invaluable to help you avoid the common pitfalls and danger zones.  They can help guide you through the rough areas of the hike and get you to the summit a lot easier than if you were to go it alone.   There are many people that are willing to share their experience.  It makes sense to listen to them.

Expect ups and downs
There may be some really steep, arduous cliffs to climb as well as some easy plateaus and dips.  The trail to the top is full of challenges.  Be prepared to meet each one.  Realize that it is all part of the process.  Each time you overcome a challenge, you emerge stronger, wiser, and closer to your goal.

Enjoy every part of the journey
The great beauty of the climb is all around you every step of the way.  Everywhere you look there is something fascinating.  All the ups and downs have something to teach you.  Don’t forget to enjoy yourself along the way.

Take advantage of the opportunities to gain a new perspective
Each part of the journey offers a different perspective.  The terrain, plants, and wildlife often change during an ascent.  You will get to see a different part of the mountain and gain a new understanding if you take time to absorb it. Once you sit on top and look back down over the vast peaks, take time to contemplate what you have done and enjoy the moment.

The natural world has so much to teach us.  I hope you find strength and enlightenment climbing your own personal mountains and share your experiences to help others.

 

Top Scientists, Engineers, and Entrepreneurs look to Nature for Inspiration and Guidance

 

creepy toad foto
Who is the most influential educator in the world?

There is no one who has taught more people or created more things that we often take for granted. She has taught every one of the greatest scientist from Aryabhata to Albert Einstien. She showed André-Jacques Garnerin how to make a parachute and taught the Wright Brothers how to fly. She showed Ben Franklin electricity, taught Alessandro Volta how to harness it, and showed Nikola Tesla how to transport it. She has been responsible for the first sparks of fire to the modern match. She is the mother of all inventions from every industry from agriculture to drinking water.

 

Yet she has often been ignored, taken advantage of, and abused.

Now, top scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs are once again looking to her for guidance.

Even billionaire, Sir Richard Branson looks to her for advice on how to direct the many companies of the Virgin Brand. He calls her the “Original Entrepreneur” and insists that it is crucial we learn from her if we are to continue to enjoy the wealth that we have derived from her for hundreds of centuries.

Companies like Boeing, have sent their top engineers to Costa Rica’s Pacific coast to study her in order to come up with solutions for better aviation design. Nike and General Electric have also looked to her to create more effective products and systems.

She is teaching scientists and engineers from the Sahara desert project how to harness energy from the sun and grow food using saltwater in one of the world’s most hostile climates. Projects like these could lead to reforestation of deserts and new ways of sustaining struggling communities.

Mother Nature has had over 3.8 billion years for research and development to come up with innovative systems and designs that are extremely efficient and create zero waste. She is open to teach anyone who is willing to take the time to study with her.

Are we taking time to study?

As people in developed countries spend more time in front of electronic screens, it becomes more important to find opportunities to help them learn from the great educator that lies right outside in the natural world. That is why it so important to create opportunities for young people to learn from her.

More companies are recognizing the value of studying nature as a means for developing systems and design even though it is often counter intuitive for their workforce. Not only can new products and services be developed, but also systems of building a more harmonious relationship between nature and business. As Branson puts it, “…we must recognize the value of the natural assets on our balance sheets” .

In addition to traditional education, we should encourage students to re-learn how to ask questions and look to the great educator of nature for answers. They can then use what they learn to develop new technologies and systems, learn how to profit from her abundance and at the same time find ways to take care of her as she ages.

These are the critical thinking skills that innovative companies will be searching for.  How we use what we learn from the lessons of mother nature will determine our future.

Pay attention because class is in session!

 

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 Richard Branson:  Mother Nature, the Original Entrepreneur

http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/4282197

http://saharaforestproject.com/projects/qatar.html

http://www.edinformatics.com/inventions_inventors/

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