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50 Innovators of the Year 2021

The NextGen Project – Transforming the next generation leaders in startups, corporations, and non-profit organizations.

The NextGen Project – Transforming the next generation leaders in startups, corporations, and non-profit organizations.

For the growth of an organization, the communication between the management, the leaders of different generations is crucial to adapt to the ever-changing demands of the corporate world. What is relevant today can be obsolete soon. The Millennials and GenZ are becoming an essential factor in shaping the future of a company. Taking this into consideration, The NextGen Project was formed. It is a growing community focusing on helping startups, corporations, and non-profit organizations transform. We had a conversation with the executives at The NextGen Project to know more about the company. Here are a few excerpts of the interview:

What inspired you to start The NextGen Project? Brief us about the journey so far?

Before starting The NextGen Project, Heikki Leskinen worked as a strategy consultant for 20 years, helping corporations to discover new growth opportunities. As part of the client projects, he did matchmaking between corporate management teams and millennial startup founders. Over and over again, he witnessed how a dialogue between senior executives and young entrepreneurs acted as a powerful catalyst for transformative thinking. He realized that a hierarchy-free dialogue between leaders of different generations and people with diverse thinking is a powerful way to unlock new perspectives and solutions.

Also, he was surprised how rarely executives utilize their millennial employees’ unique insights. The Millennials and GenZ are becoming the largest generation in the working life and continue redefining business models, working cultures, and investment priorities. Heikki decided to start building an international network of high-performing millennial professionals with diverse backgrounds, knowledge, and skills that executives don’t otherwise have access to.

On the other side of the world, in NYC, USA, Marina has been advising executive teams and boards of large multinational corporations. She noticed a gap in how diversity matters are approached at these levels, often not covering the cross-generational aspect. Marina wanted to start an initiative for including more next-gen voices at leadership and board levels and, in her research, come across The NextGen Project. Since The NextGen Project vision was completely aligned with Marina’s, she decided to join this talented team and help drive their expansion globally. The NextGen Project has successfully worked with hundreds of executives, boards, and management teams.

Delineate a short overview of the services your company offers?

The NextGen Project is all about connecting a highly diverse, international community of high-performing young professionals between the ages of 20-35 with corporate leadership teams to foster a transformational cross-generational dialogue and collaboration. The NextGen Project members have diverse academic, social, and cultural backgrounds, e.g., in engineering, economics, law, social sciences, and arts, and extensive working experience in startups, corporations, universities, and non-profit organizations.With this group, The NextGen Project helps corporations to better attract, develop and retain young talent, re-imagine the future of work and workspaces, and strengthen its thought-leadership and broader positive impact. The NextGen Project offers essentially three types of services and ways of collaborating with corporations looking to become future-ready:

  • NextGen Insights – leadership teams and executives receive targeted, high-quality quantitative and qualitative research on various nextgen topics such as millennial and Generation Z values, attitudes, expectations, future of work, future of the workplace, etc.c.
  • NextGen Advisory - - Executives connect with a group of hand-picked NextGen Advisors in a series of facilitated online sessions to enable them to analyze and strategize the future from a broader, cross-generational angle
  • NextGen Impact – This is a strategic partnership with The NextGen Project. The clients may benefit from a long-term collaboration, particularly when they are looking for a higher long-term strategic impact, such as becoming better at attracting and retaining nextgen talent.

What makes your solution unique? How uniquely do you address your customers’ pain points?

Some companies have internal reverse-mentoring programs to promote knowledge sharing between senior executives and the next generation of leaders. While such internal initiatives are valuable and highly recommended, they have some critical limitations. First, the company gets insights from an internal, already available talent pool, hence missing valuable external, fresh perspectives it may need, for example, to recruit talent with critical new competencies. Second, organizational hierarchies and power structures usually limit the dialogue between senior executives and younger employees and their willingness to truly speak up.

For The NextGen Project, it is all about enabling hierarchy-free cross-generational dialogue at leadership levels by bringing in external, independent top-class nextgen voices from across all industries and geographies. Through this process, it can unlock new perspectives as well as bring complementary insights and best practices to its clients to ensure they are future-ready.

How do you attract nextgen talent, i.e., The NextGen Project members?

We understand that an effective cross-generational dialogue is a two-way street, which is why we invest quite a bit of effort in coaching The NextGen Project members. It systematically helps its community members discover, develop, and practice their unique leadership and advisory skills. It provides a rich offering of leadership training, online meetups and networking, co-mentoring and knowledge-sharing, and roundtables.

For its members, The NextGen Project is a valuable platform to connect with other young professionals, make a positive impact in companies they work with, and develop one’s leadership and advisory skills. Working with leadership teams from other industries and at the level they do not usually have access to is a very unique value proposition to our members.

What new endeavors is your company currently undertaking

The NextGen Project currently has three strategic priorities: market expansion, continuous development of our service offering targeted at corporate clients, and introducing new services to the community members to help them discover, develop and put into practice their future leadership and advisory potential. We are particularly focusing on growing our strategic partnerships with various organizations, as this is the primary way we can drive deep, transformational change with joint forces.

Where do you think your company will be in five years? Describe briefly.

We want to become the #1 advisory firm enabling future-ready organizations. We also envision being a global people-accelerator for next-generation leaders: both nextgen talent of our clients and The NextGen Project community members. We will continue to help them develop the kind of leadership skills needed in the future, as going forward, companies will need to not only maximize shareholder value but also align the interests of the society, environment, and shareholders. We believe that this is a major paradigm shift in the type of leadership philosophy needed in the future.

Meet the Chief

Heikki Leskinen – Founder & CEO

Heikki has 20 years of experience in entrepreneurship, strategy consulting, and change management. He has led growth, transformation, and digital services initiatives in Europe, Asia-Pacific, and the US for corporate clients across multiple industries, including telecommunications, banking, insurance, media, entertainment, manufacturing, travel, and retail. He is passionate about helping companies and people to become the best versions of themselves and positively impacting the world around them.

Marina Cvetkovic – Chief Commercial Officer

Marina’s background entails advising executives and boards across the globe on accelerating their performance and building stronger alliances at the top. She belongs to the group of the world’s leading executive coaches MG100. Marina has been awarded FiNext Leader 2019 for her contribution to the financial services industry and 10 Best Leaders 2020 for her leadership and coaching. She is passionate about The NextGen Project and co-creating future-ready organizations.

“The NextGen Project tears down barriers and eliminates hierarchy to facilitate a genuine and impactful cross-generational dialogue, unlocking new opportunity and bold originality.”

“The NextGen Project advises in strategy, leadership, and technology by connecting senior executives with insightful young leaders.”

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