At a conference I attended, the very sharp mind of Marten Mickos, CEO of HackerOne, ex HP, ex Nokia, reminded the audience that ‘the new generations are not worried about the future, but about what the older generations are leaving behind’. I thought it was a great insight in the context of discussions about what Millennials want from life, which took place in a panel of speakers where no visible Millennial had been invited to speak.
Another ‘expert in Millennials’ would assure us that ‘they’ have three distinctive characteristics: (1) They love relationships; (2) They need and follow a cause; (3) They don’t want a job.
These may be true. As caricatures go, this may be a good one. But I’m always puzzled by how these are always portrayed as almost innate and genetic of an entire generation. Are Millennials born with a relationship gene, a purpose and good cause gene, and a no job gene? Or did they all get together in a Global Millennial Alignment Convention and decide on these three features?
The truth about ‘the Millennials characteristics’ maybe more about how the non-Millennials, previous generations have shaped their world, so that the world in front, handed to them, is the only one they know.
They love relationships. Sure, they are ‘there’, in front, at a click and a like. Hyper connectivity is a global phenomenon (but not hyper-collaboration and hyper-proximity) so, they take it because they live it. What nobody really says is that their relationships may be very different from other relationships. The question is what type of relationship, if any at all, is a differentiation between us.
They want and follow a cause. Maybe the previous generations have created more and more causes to follow, so, no shortage, the supply is high. Maybe previous generations are looking at a serious purpose for the organization, having avoided full domestication under ‘the maximisation of shareholder value’, which reached a climax of Robotic Goals and proportions, until legions of people started shouting my favourite slogan: ‘surely, there must be a better way’.
They don’t want a job. Perhaps they don’t want your kind of job, or mine. Perhaps they are redefining ‘job’.
I think that, very often, we have a set of stereotypes and mental frames that we apply easily as a way to comprehend the world. That makes us (feel) more in control. It’s easy to apply a frame of wishes, desires and predictable behaviours to an entire generation. Some of these behaviours may tell us more about our own ones, and the world that we have prepared and cooked for that generation, than something ‘intrinsic to them’.
The question about Millennials is not whether, or why, they love relationships, a cause, and ‘no jobs’, but whether, or why, we have a world that is craving for better relationships, has organizations that may have forgotten a ‘high purpose’, and jobs not worth having.
Perhaps what Millenials want is the same as we non-Millennials want, but one of us is too shy to say. I think that they are having the meal that we have cooked for them.
There is only one strategy test: what will you tell the children?
Try this: Son, I got up every day and went to the office to maximise shareholder value. I also participated in lots of Lean Teams. Ah, and I was an agile employee. In my time, our employee engagement scores went up from 4.5 to 7. Just try. Rehearse this by saying it to yourself in the mirror. Yes, what will we tell the children? That’s probably the only question that matters.
There is only one strategy test: what will you tell the children? My children, your children, their children, the children. Apply wisely and broadly. Once you look them in the eyes, you’ll know straight away if the grandiose strategy you are proclaiming has any legs. What we will tell the children is ‘the red face test’ of leadership.
Extract from my book: The Flipping point – Deprogramming Management.
Our real and present danger is not a future of robots and AI, but of current established BS. Management needs deprogramming. In this book, you are invited to the Mother of All Call Outs!