As disruptive scenarios emerge to impact every industry, I see them coalescing into ecosystems. Because our lives are multidimensional, our needs are the intersections for disruptive scenarios and anchor points for the future of our industries. Thus, it’s critical for business strategists, entrepreneurs and individuals alike to understand ecosystems. I’m counting down the top ten reasons why I believe ecosystems are the ultimate destination for disruptive scenarios and the future of business.
I started by presenting how the emerging community value system is driving society’s shift toward ecosystems. Next, I addressed how industry platforms and the collaborative economy are enabling the organic growth of ecosystems. I also covered how purpose and intrinsic motivation underpin the creation and performance of ecosystems and are leading the trend toward freelancing and coworking. In this post, I’ll look at Millennials, what they value and how they and ecosystems are meant for each other.
The Largest Generation Ever
The Millennial generation is perhaps the most studied generation in history. According to The Millennial Generation Research Review and the U.S. Census Bureau statistics, there are over 80 million Millennials, representing the largest cohort size in US history. Reports on Millennial annual purchasing power range widely between $125 billion and $890 billion. A more consistent estimate is $200 billion of direct purchasing power and $500 billion of indirect spending, largely due to the influence on the spending of their mostly baby boomer parents. 5 Comprising nearly 75% of the workforce by 2025, the values and priorities of Millennials are crucial to any business strategist.
What Millennials Value
I’ve written throughout this blog how human values are guiding the exponential evolution of business and society, including how the Community Value system is rapidly emerging to transform the nature of our industries. What I find fascinating is how accurately this value system, which was conceived by Clare Graves in the early 1970’s, describes the Millennial generation. Graves essentially predicted with great accuracy the rise of the Millennial generation. It’s a testament to the power of human psychology to predict the future of business as businesses have historically been collections of human beings exchanging value. Now, we may well see the day that the majority of business is carried out automatically by algorithms and artificial intelligence, but as we transition toward that, humans and what they value will carry the day. And Millennial values will dominate the transition. Consider the characteristics of the Community Value system, which embody Millennial priorities:
- More aware of the suffering of the world, of other sentient beings
- Human spirit must be freed from greed, dogma, and divisiveness
- Feelings, sensitivity, and caring supersede cold rationality
- Share the Earth’s resources and opportunities equally among all
- Reach decisions through consensus processes
- Anti-authoritarian and against hierarchy
- No one should be marginalized
- Environmentalism becomes a socio-political movement
- All people are good; it’s society that makes them bad
Of Millennial priorities, three values stand out and will have a major impact on business.
Millennials value purpose. They want to to make a difference in their lives and they want to align their careers with their personal interests. In the Cone Communications Social Impact Study of 1,200+ U.S. adults, 87.5% of Millennials disagreed with the statement that “money is the best measure of success.” 3 In Exponential Organizations, Salim Ismail states, “Research shows that Millennials are showing an orientation towards seeking meaning and purpose in their lives. Worldwide, they are becoming increasingly aspirational and, as such, will be drawn as customers, employees and investors to equally aspirational organizations – that is, to companies that have massive transformative purposes and live up to their tenets.” In the book The Purpose Economy: “Aaron Hurst refers to Millennials as “the purpose generation, who are increasingly constructing their identities around purpose to make sense of the rapidly evolving world and their equally fluctuating role in it.” He adds, “Whereas the Baby Boomers and Gen X “divorced” their professional lives from personal and civic arenas, Millennials have blurred the line between professional development and personal self-expression and eagerly seek to reconcile their personal values and desire to serve others in a professional setting. Millennials were raised to believe that “they can be whatever they want to be” and don’t want to settle for a less-than-meaningful life.”
Millennials epitomize community values. In addition to the desire to be loved by many 1, Millennials want to feel like a vital part of a lively, desirable group, including co-creation, crowdsourcing and collaboration for launching and growing a business 2. They are exceedingly inclusive as this quote demonstrates: “In 1965, fat girls did not become cheerleaders, pregnant girls did not marry wearing white, and nearsighted boys weren’t going to be cool even if they could dance…which they could not. In most cities, black kids did not hang with white kids, poor kids did not hang with rich kids, and Baptist kids did not hang with Catholics or Jews. It is not that way in the 21st century. If you are a Millennial, none of the previous labels rise to the level of attention. And that is an ideal situation for leaders smart enough to harness the everybody-is-welcome-to-play power of Millennial teams.” 4
Because Millennials want to make a difference, they rank social causes high among their priorities. Fueled by the power of social media’s ability to quickly spread information and ideas, Millennials are able to easily engage in activism. As this quotes shows, Millennials are using social media to voice their opinions and collaborate on social causes. “There are more than 215 million blogs on Tumblr and, according to comScore, an analytics company, 50 percent of Tumblr users are from 15 to 34 years old. The company’s internal surveys show that 64 percent of users say that they care about social causes and look into them on Tumblr. These numbers suggest that millennials  have a strong interest in social issues.” 6 In fact, 63% of Millennials want their employer to contribute to social or ethical causes they felt were important 3 and 89% expressed a stronger likelihood that they would buy from companies that supported solutions to specific social issues. 3
The Millennial Workforce
Given their tech savvy, idealistic and inclusive nature, Millennials are poised to make an enormous impact in the world. They represent a new paradigm for work/life balance as they blur the lines between business and altruism. They prefer to work in teams, make group decisions, and do not deal well with ambiguity and slow processes. 5 They will balk at doing things the way they’ve always been done because they want freedom of choice in everything. 4 In fact, 64% of Millennials state they would rather make $40,000/year at a job they love than $100,000/year at a job they think is boring. 3 To engage and motivate Millennials, Peter Diamandis suggests giving them the autonomy to work the way they want to work; allowing them to challenge and prove why their solution is best; and encouraging them to experiment with exponential technologies.
Millennials and Ecosystems
Nearly all of the above facts point to the importance of ecosystems in engaging Millennials as consumers and workers. As values shift toward community and interdependence, we are moving into a Millennial world. Millennials are poised to lead the emergence of industry platforms that create hyper-productive experiences as the tech savvy, coworking talent of the future. They are the founding fathers and mothers of the collaborative economy movement and they are absolutely driven by purpose and intrinsic motivation to make a difference in the world. That makes “Millennials” the number 4 reason that ecosystems are the future.
Next Up: Number 3 – Abundance
1. [8 Truths About Millennials That Can Change The Way You Do Business, Jan Risher]↩
2. [The Millennial Marketing Mix: Community, Innovation and Values, Alyse Lorber]↩
3. [11 Facts about the Millennial Generation, Fred Dews]↩
4. [New Millennial Values, T. Scott Gross]↩
5. [The Millennial Generation Research Review, US Chamber of Commerce]↩
6. [Millennials and the Age of Tumblr, Valeriya Safronova]↩
7. [Most Important Generation Yet, Peter Diamandis]↩