Finding the right mix between encouraging learning and growth within an organization while still providing enough direction to keep the entity on course remains the biggest leadership challenge facing anyone seeking to harness the energy and enthusiasm of America’s youngest, largest and most diverse generation of workers. Although strategic direction will still come from the leaders of organizations in the future, new work processes and behaviors need to embrace the bottom-up approach to solving problems that Millennials, born between 1982 and 2003, favor.
Part of the answer to this challenge is to design work environments that simultaneously reflect the vision and values of the organization’s leadership while aligning the organization’s purpose with the desire of Millennials to find ways of working together to change the world for the better. Implementing such a strategy, however, requires transforming the world of work from cubicles to creativity and from hierarchy to democracy.
In order to bring organizations in line with Millennials’ desire to work in a consensual, participative, collaborative culture, leaders will need to learn how to “coordinate and cultivate” their organizations, rather than “command and control” them.
Coordinating innovation requires a deep understanding of the role each person plays in generating value for the organization. Techniques, such as Value Network Analysis (VNA), can create visual maps of the interactions between co-workers, thereby identifying opportunities to enhance the exchange of value between them. Based on this analysis, social media technology and newly redesigned workspaces can be deployed to increase the quantity and quality of value exchanges, unlocking individual creativity and turbo-charging organizational innovation.
Cultivating creativity, by contrast, requires a shift in the style of leaders from the Baby Boomer era preference for charisma and dramatic personalities to one more in line with Millennials’ desire to be mentored and supported by their boss, similar to the way they were raised by their parents. Offices designed to reflect this leadership style should be furnished in ways that build transparency into the physical structure of the office itself by eliminating cubicles, using glass walls where needed, and providing teams the opportunity to work in spaces as welcoming as their family rooms at home. Those empowered by this type of leader to do the critical work of the organization, regardless of rank, should have environments bathed in outside light and natural furnishings that will encourage and reward their creativity.
As with any momentous change, creating this new world of work will require the same level of creativity and innovation on the part of an organization’s leaders as those leaders wish to inspire in their workforce. Those who learn how to coordinate innovation and cultivate creativity have the best chance of bringing those same values to the organization they lead and ensuring the success of everyone in it. Those leaders courageous enough to make this shift will establish a foundation of trust among their employees whose innovation and creativity will generate the level of customer loyalty needed for success in the marketplace as well.
Millennials: Work is Not A Place, But What You Do
Video from Mike & Morley
Unlike Generation X, Millennials aren’t interested in balancing
work and life. Work is just one thing to do among many
in their blended, seamless daily life.
Confrontation and conflict are the favorite dispute resolution tools of Baby Boomers, who were born in the aftermath of WWII and grew up in the rebellious ‘60s. In stark contrast, members of the Millennial generation, born 1982-2003, bring a spirit of collaboration and consensus to solving any problem they encounter. A great example of what a difference this generational distinction can make is the cooperative spirit the parents at the LA Unified School District’s 24th Street school, most of whom are Millennials in their twenties or early thirties, used in resolving the dispute over the school’s future.
Located near the 10 freeway and Western Avenue in a predominantly Hispanic, hardscrabble neighborhood, the school appeared regularly on the District’s list of academic underperformers. Beyond poor learning outcomes, the parents at the school were upset by LAUSD’s apparent unwillingness to address major cleanliness and health issues and a tendency for the principal to use suspensions and a police presence as the way to enforce discipline. Before California’s Parent Trigger law gave parents the legal status to challenge incumbent administrators, the parents had organized a protest designed to remove the principal, but LAUSD failed to respond to their request.
So when organizers for the Parent Revolution non-profit that originally conceived of the Parent Trigger law contacted the school’s parents in May 2012, they found a group that was prepared to spend long hours in the grinding work of organizing their peers into a cohesive and unified force that LAUSD would have to deal with. The parents knocked on doors and handed out flyers at the school inviting mothers to come to a nearby park where they met every Thursday after dropping off their kids at school. The “parent union” leaders surveyed all the other parents to determine what they liked or didn’t like about the school and encouraged those interested to attend the Public School Choice programs LAUSD ran to learn more about school reform options. Dissatisfied with what the District’s processes, the parents who came to the park elected a steering committee that met every Monday morning to organize the Thursday discussions.
The discussions led to an emerging consensus on the changes the parents wanted to see at the school site. They wanted to make sure that children with special needs had the right level of support services and the restoration of the preschool Early Education Center the district had eliminated due to budget cuts. They demanded that dead animals and other health hazards, like non-functioning bathrooms, be fixed immediately. But the demand that brought about a real transformation of the conflict at the school and changed its culture in the most fundamental way was their insistence that everyone “play nice” together. They wanted LAUSD’s K-5 24th St. School and the Crown Prep charter school that ran a somewhat competing 5-8 charter school at the same site to embrace a spirit of collaboration to address the needs of the children, not necessarily their individual institutional interests.
On January 17, 2013, about nine months after they were first contacted by Parent Revolution, the parents submitted a “parent trigger” petition to LAUSD, asking that the school be reconstituted under the federal No School Left Behind law’s guidelines for underperforming schools. Unlike other instances in California when such a petition has been presented to a school district’s board, LAUSD, under the guidance of its reform minded superintendent, John Deasy, responded positively to their request. Eight Letters of Intent were presented to the parents from entities that wanted to take over its operations, including ones from Crown Prep and LAUSD.
The parents formed a committee, which met every day from 8:30 AM until 2:30 PM, to review these proposals. They presented all the ideas to the parents at the weekly Thursday meetings and asked each bidder to come to the park and talk to them. On the day of LAUSD’s presentation it rained continuously, but Superintendent John Deasy stayed to talk to the parents as the rain fell about how to find common ground.
Finally, the parents reached a consensus on how to restructure the school. They wanted to retain the college prep focus of the existing charter school, but they didn’t want an organization with little expertise in elementary education taking over K-4. So they asked LAUSD and Crown Prep to establish a collaboration on behalf of their children. If both entities would agree, a brand new LAUSD school with a new principal and new teachers would have responsibility for kindergarten through fourth grade on the campus and Crown Prep would have uncontested responsibility for grades 5-8. Parents wanted both organizations to agree in writing that children would be on a college readiness track when they went to high school and that both organizations would share professional development of the 24th St. School teachers to ensure a seamless environment on the two school campus, including coordination of schedules.
Then a miracle happened. The two competing bidders found a way to agree with the unprecedented request of the parents. They signed an addendum to their bids acceding to the parents’ wishes. The parents voted their approval on April 10, 2013, just about one year after their organizing activities had begun. A newly responsive LAUSD school board approved this innovative new concept one week later and parents became part of the committees that interviewed prospective principals and teachers for their school. The newly reconstituted school opened in the fall of 2013, with a new principal and a new set of teachers who, in the words of one of the parents, “have lots of new ideas and a strong desire to work on behalf of los niños.” The early education center is scheduled to reopen in January, 2015.
When it came time for LAUSD to decide whether to retain the services of Superintendent Deasy, one of the most eloquent speeches on his behalf was delivered by a parent from the 24th St. School who recalled that day in the rain in the park as evidence of Deasy’s commitment to the children of Los Angeles. A school board riven by differences in personality and policy was taught a lesson about how to work in a more collaborative way by the Millennial parents who had embodied this new spirit in everything they did. As Boomers age and fade from their current leadership roles, perhaps more institutions will find a way to embrace Millennial values and behaviors that have already brought “a smile instead of tears” to the faces of the children of the 24th St. school in the City of Angels.
Millennials: Economics of Higher Education
Video from Mike & Morley
Millennials’ student debt is depressing US economy. College
will become part of universal, free educational system
in America when Millennials run things.
Historically, “civic” generations like Millennials, have tended to emphasize distinctions between the sexes, while “idealist” generations, such as today’s Boomers, have advanced the cause of women’s rights. This includes the Transcendental generation that founded the feminist movement in the 1840s, the Missionary generation suffragists in the early twentieth century, and of course the Boomers who revitalized the women’s movement in the 1960s.
By comparison, as Neil Howe and William Strauss, the founders of generational theory point out, the eighteenth-century civic Republican generation, which included many of our Founding Fathers “associated ‘effeminacy’ with corruption and disruptive passion, ‘manliness’ with reason and disinterested virtue.” During World War II, as the men in the twentieth century civic GI generation went into the military, many women went to work in America’s factories, assuming jobs traditionally held by males. But at war’s end, willingly or unwillingly, most of Rosie the Riveter’s sisters returned to their traditional roles as wives and mothers.
By contrast, today’s Millennial women are refusing to accept any restrictions, based on their sex, on what they might be allowed to do and what they may be able to achieve. The result has been vastly improved educational and income opportunities for women and a greater demand for the ability to blend work with the rest of life’s responsibilities and pleasures from both sexes.
Although the civically oriented GI generation was notable for providing equal opportunities for women and men to attend high school, the Millennial Generation is the first in American history in which women are more likely to attend and graduate from college and professional school than are men. In 2006, nearly 58 percent of college students were women. By 2016, women are projected to earn 64 percent of associate’s degrees, 60 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 63 percent of master’s degrees, and 56 percent of doctorates. These achievements have produced a generation of self-confident women who, unlike many of their Boomer mothers and grandmothers, do not see themselves in conflict or competition with men.
All of this has led some male Millennials to rethink the entire concept of masculinity. It’s becoming increasingly clear, for instance, that male Millennials will take greater advantage of paternity-leave opportunities to bond with their newborn children and support the mothers of those children, when they become fathers. Remarkably, in sharp distinction to the usual partisan rancor these days, polls show that majorities of Republicans (62%), Democrats (92%), and independents (71%) now support the idea of paid paternity leave. The federal budget already includes money to help states start paternity-leave programs. Under pressure from the growing presence of Millennials in the electorate, a paid paternity and maternity leave program is likely to become an employee-funded federal insurance program, similar to Social Security, which could be financed by a small payroll tax increase of about three-tenths of one percent.
The biggest changes for American men will come as Millennials become the predominant generation in the workplace. Economic necessity will force young men to train for and work in a range of careers, such as nursing and teaching, that have previously been seen as women’s work. As the blurring of occupational gender distinctions becomes commonplace, Millennials will demand that employers provide opportunities for more work-life blending. With both parents equally involved in career and family, employers who wish to attract top talent will have no other choice but to accommodate the generation’s demand for such things as telecommuting, flexible hours, and child care. Politicians who support policies designed to encourage the provision of such benefits will receive a positive reception from their Millennial constituents.
The result will be a new national consensus on what it means to be a man or a woman and a new respect for the full participation of both sexes in all aspects of American family life.
Millennials' Belief in Gender Equality
Biggest Cultural Shift of All
Video from Mike & Morley
Millennials firm belief in gender neutrality in roles and
responsibilities will have the most profound effect on culture
of all the generation's beliefs.
Depending on one’s partisan leanings, the desire of House Republicans to shut down the federal government if the Democrats don’t agree to repeal ObamaCare may seem to be either a courageous ideological stand or a kamikaze mission sure to destroy its proponents, if not the country. However, from a generational perspective it is not only a predictable but a necessary step in the country’s search for a new consensus on the role and size of government.
Nor is it coincidental that the current confrontation is coming to a head just as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is about to be implemented nationwde. The roles that the legislation assigns to the federal government, states and individuals in securing every citizen access to medical insurance is such a departure from the existing civic ethos it has become the touchstone for the debate about the nation’s civic ethos in the Millennial Era. Yet, ironically, the law everyone wants to argue about actually provides a blueprint to any politician willing to go beyond their current ideological comfort zone and solve a range of challenges in ways that respond to the beliefs and behaviors of the emerging Millennial Majority in the electorate.
As finally passed by a Democratic Congress in 2010, ACA creates a relationship between the federal government and the nation’s adult population similar to the role Millennials’ parents have played in their young children’s lives. Parents pronounced rules to guide their children’s behavior with consequences (“time outs”) if the rules were broken. Similarly, the ACA requires each individual to purchase health insurance and provides penalties (taxes) for failing to do so, an approach the Supreme Court ruled lawful under Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution. And, just as parents and other members of the extended community helped Millennials succeed within the boundaries of the rules they established, ACA envisioned a series of state by state health insurance exchanges that would help each state’s residents find the type of insurance they wanted at a cost they could afford. As those exchanges open for business in about half of the states this week, this new configuration of American democracy will be put to a practical test, but the fundamental concept is likely to be recognized in the future as the basis for a new civic ethos as distinct from the Reagan era of limited government as was the New Deal from its laissez faire predecessor.
History suggests, however, that the country must go through a crisis as bad as the one it is facing today before this happens. The New Deal was born out of the perils of the Great Depression. Reagan’s tough love solution of lower taxes and less government regulation required years of economic stagflation before it became conventional political wisdom. Today, neither of those ideas has proven equal to the task of breaking the country out of the economic doldrums of the Great Recession.
Older politicians will have to get beyond their ideological blinders to recognize the opportunity waiting for any candidate or political party that can embrace both halves of the Millennial era civic ethos paradox. Members of the Millennial generation are as suspicious of large government bureaucracies as any libertarian but as dedicated to economic equality and social justice as any liberal. To resolve the crisis, the GOP should embrace ObamaCare as a great example of how government can encourage individual responsibility and accountability and Democrats should sign up for President Obama’s commitment to creating a smarter, smaller less bureaucratic government. Only when the crisis becomes so bad that a few brave leaders break out of their ideological bunkers and discover a new civic ethos that embodies both collective action and individual responsibility will the Millennial Era civic ethos emerge from the chaos created by a Congress so out of step with the beliefs and behaviors of the future leaders of the country.
Millennials Think Globally, Act Locally
ObamaCare is the model for how Millennials will change
the role and size of government at all levels in the future.
Video from Mike and Morley
Over the centuries, differences in generational attitudes have caused the nation’s consensus on how to balance the tension between security and privacy to shift. Group and civic-oriented generations, such as the GI generation that fought in World War II, emphasized safety and security. Individualistic generations, such as today’s Baby Boomers and Generation X, tilted the balance back toward protecting privacy from the intrusions of big government or big business.
Today another civic generation, Millennials, born between 1982 and 2003, is emerging into young adulthood and, like other cohorts of their type, are likely to once again push America toward a greater focus on security. In an era of ubiquitous smart phones, soon to be available as hands-free wearable glasses and smart watches, most Millennials accept the inevitable loss of privacy that comes with the increasing presence of social media. As a result, technologist Pete Markiewicz points out that tracking an individual’s physical and virtual movements can now be accomplished with sufficient mining of cell phone and web data to produce a “lifelog” that Google or Facebook might use to provide Millennials with a measure of their “personal connectedness” – or police might use to find a terrorist in our midst.
Having posted their entire life on Facebook, Millennials are less concerned than older generations with this kind of documentation of an individual’s behavior and more interested in how to use technology to increase their personal safety.
Like other generations, a solid majority of Millennials (58 percent) support national ID cards for all Americans. Two-thirds of them believe that surveillance cameras to combat terrorism are a good idea. And, half of Millennials, compared with 40 percent from other generations, favor government monitoring of credit card sales to help combat terrorists.
Even so, most Millennials are confident that this increased surveillance can be accomplished in accord with America’s constitutional traditions. According to Pew, only 25 percent of the Millennial generation (as compared with nearly half of older generations) believe that it will be necessary for Americans to give up civil liberties to curb terrorism. This does not mean that Millennials are naïve or soft on terror. They are quite willing to utilize the full force of government and to take complete advantage of current technology to deal with the threat, but they want it to be done fairly and in a non-discriminatory manner; less than half of Millennials favor extra airport screening of people of Middle Eastern descent, in contrast to nearly 60 percent of older Americans.
Fifteen years ago, in his book, “The Transparent Society,” futurist David Brin predicted constant surveillance would become part of daily life. As Mr. Brin wrote, the central question that must be answered to resolve the privacy/security paradox is “who controls the cameras or the networks and who can access the data.”
His solution to preserving civil liberties in such a world – increasing transparency at the same rate as the growth of personal data – offers a solution that Millennials, with their strong desire to share everything, would embrace. If the beliefs and behaviors of the Millennial generation become the country’s guideposts for how to live in this new world, America should do a better job in the near future than it has done in the past of adhering to its democratic principles as it searches for a greater sense of security.
Millennials: Willing To Trade
Privacy for Security
Millennials are more willing to give up privacy for security. Will the generation's
desire for safety lead to new levels of government and corporate surveillance?
Video from Mike and Morley
We recently had the great pleasure of dining with some Millennials as part of our research
on the generation’s eating habits that are transforming the food industry. Innovaro, a market research company that provides insights about new market opportunities to its subscribers,
has been gracious enough to incorporate our findings in a report it published on the topic. Without violating any of Innovaro’s copyrights or our guests’ privacy, we want to share a couple of brief vignettes on what transpired that night at a great Middle Eastern restaurant in Washington, D.C.
Forty percent of Millennials are non-white and 20% have an immigrant parent. Their eclectic tastes in food reflect these demographic characteristics. Growing up they shared food with peers who came from vastly different backgrounds with a wide variety of cuisines and spices. Far more than the members of older generations when they were young, Millennials are adventurous eaters, willing to try something new at least once and more comfortable with a wider variety of taste temptations. At our dinner, an African-American female Millennial was eating a plate of steak tartare and recommending it to her peers as something she had recently tried and really liked. A white German-Catholic male eagerly downed hummus, babbaganouch and tabouli and remarked how marvelous it was to be able to eat foods no one in his neighborhood in Cincinnati had even heard of when he was growing up, let alone ate. A white male with a Finnish last name, remembered how he used to eat out in different neighborhoods in his home town of Ishpeming, Michigan in order to experiment with different ethnic cuisines. He heartily recommended Cornish pasties to his peers should they ever find themselves in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Millennials bring this same taste for adventure into their cooking habits, albeit with a strong dash of social media. The Millennials we dined with had all used YouTube videos to figure out how to prepare something at home. The process began with an Internet search for recipes, then a quick trip to the store to buy the ingredients, and finally cooking it with their iPad next to the stove for easy reference. Preparing a “nice” meal was not a frequent occurrence, but reserved for special events or celebrations that warranted the investment of time. Only a few had learned to cook from their parents, whose food preferences tended to be much narrower than their own.
The Millennials we dined with loved to watch the Food Network and its clones. The show, “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” represented the perfect blend for them of cheap food, unique to its locale (Millennials are very into “locality”), that could be eaten as part of a fun experience. Almost every one of them could remember watching cooking shows growing up and many had taken cooking courses to learn how to do what they had seen on TV.
Having been raised by fathers who were as much involved with parenting as their mothers, Millennials are much less likely to believe that gender should play a role in other activities in life. So perhaps the biggest difference from older generations when it came to food and cooking that we observed with our friendly focus group was that there was no distinction between the males and females on this topic. Welcome to the Millennial food era.
Download the full text of the 16pg
Innovaro Global Lifestyles report, Millennials and Food,
after you register with very basic info on this page:
Millennials are the first generation in American history that has been asked to self-finance the cost of the education needed for America to be economically successful. Shortly after the ratification of the Constitution, Congress passed legislation setting aside land in the new territories for the establishment of the iconic one room school houses to assure its newest citizens had the skills required to be good farmers and domestic servants. Even as the country was engaged in a devastating Civil War, a state-by-state movement to mandate universal and free primary education for every child swept the nation and became a permanent part of American society. Then, when the Industrial Revolution generated a demand for factory and office workers with a high school education, the nation expanded the concept to make such an education available equally to young men and women without any requirement to pay tuition.
The situation has changed, but the need for an educated young generation has not. The difference is that at least two years of post-secondary education has become a must-have ticket for a young generation seeking to make its way in the world. Yet we have suddenly yanked the universal, free education rug out from under them and asked them to pay for it by not only going into debt, but assuming a debt that is not even dischargeable in bankruptcy court.
The result is a rising tide of student debt that threatens to undermine the economic vitality of the nation. According to the Federal Reserve, student debt rose by a factor of more than eight between 2001 and 2012, twice as fast as home loans and far in excess of the modest increases in other forms of indebtedness during the same time period. A recently released report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau indicates that about one in four student loans is now either in default or in programs designed to help borrowers in distress. This analysis looked only at loans made through the direct student loan program totaling about $570 million, not older ones that may have been offered by banks and other private sector lenders. If borrowers are unable to repay their loans in the long run, the federal government and taxpayers will have to absorb the losses. Why, then, not recognize the problem now and bail out the borrowers so that they can put the windfall to good use in an economy desperately needing a new boost in consumer spending?
The Great Recession seriously disrupted household formation and consumer spending. According to an analysis by Merrill Lynch, in the decade before the financial markets’ collapse in 2008, one-third of all housing turnovers came from homeowners older than 55, and about one-third of those sales were to buyers under 34. Since then sales of homes have fallen by about two million units, leaving the economy 2.5 million households below normal levels. Millennials represent about 22% of the US population and control $200 billion of direct purchasing power, not counting their influence on their parent’s spending decisions. Over the next five years, a quarter of Millennials will enter their peak spending years, making them the best hope for reviving the housing market.
Millennials have expressed a strong preference for living in the type of suburban communities in which they grew up, especially when it’s time, as it is for many of them now, to raise a family. Their first home needn’t be “move in ready;” about a third of them say they would prefer a “fixer upper.” And more than 80% of the generation believe they would find a way to pay for the cost of any repairs themselves rather than borrow the money from their parents. A wave of new home buying would not only give a sharp boost to the durable goods industry that depends on new household formation for its growth, but would also provide a ready-made army to fix up some of the country’s declining, inner ring suburban housing stock.
There are legitimate public policy issues about how to fix the problem of financing American higher education. Some might argue that we should tackle that problem before dealing with student loan debtors. But with the economic recovery still proceeding at too slow a pace for most middle class Americans, an equally good case can be made that the country should deal with student loan debt either first or as part of a comprehensive reform of financing higher education. The economy could use the boost, as could the morale of America’s largest and most diverse generation.
The fundamental disconnect between network TV and its potential millennial viewers is not the usual suspect, technology. Yes, millennials are devoted to social media and have none of the love of broadcast television that Boomers acquired in their youth, or even the type of affinity Xers have for cable TV that started when they were teenagers demanding, “I want my MTV.” According to leading communications research and consulting firm Frank N. Magid Associates, Xers and Boomers will engage in 8.4 and 7.2 non-TV activities during prime-time hours, while millennials will engage in 10.4 activities. Millennials are much more likely to go online, visit a social network, listen to or play music, play games or just socialize out of the house and away from the TV box when networks most want them to pay attention to their programming. But those behaviors are an indication of how poor the programming is, not the root cause of the problem.
There are too many cynical members of Generation X who don’t begin to understand millennials, if they even try, making programming decisions for the networks that are being greenlighted by even more clueless Boomers. The result are network bombs like the American version of “Kath & Kim,” the ill-fated “My Generation,” and the most recent ratings victim, “How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life).” These programs suffered from casting popular Gen X actors, who didn’t know how to behave as millennials, in plots that substituted stereotypes from Generation X’s youth for character development and were as out of touch with the current experiences of millennials as smart phones are from clamshell cell phones.
Millennials are an optimistic, collaborative generation that believe in social rules and try and live by them. Teenage smoking rates are now the lowest ever recorded. From 1993 to 2010, the gun homicide rate in America declined 65% for those ages 12 to 17, the largest percentage decrease among all age groups. Yet older generations in charge of creating programs designed to appeal to this age group continue to broadcast stories about kids flaunting the rules, getting in trouble with the law, and engaging in the types of behavior that X-ers and Boomers did when they were young. But that is not the way millennials live.
There are of course some bright spots in this dark landscape, such as much of the Disney Family Channel’s programming, or shows like “Modern Family” and “Parenthood” that are very good at capturing intergenerational differences, even if their portrayal of millennials still has a whiff of Generation X in it. But these exceptions merely prove the general rule that without a greater understanding of the unique characteristics of the millennial generation, network television can expect its ratings to go the way of Gen X-oriented networks like Fox, leading to a future where, to quote NBC Entertainment’s Chairman, “flat is the new up.” Or worse.
Slugging Milwaukee Brewer outfielder Ryan Braun’s accomplishments earned him the National League’s Most Valuable Player award in 2011. But his suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs — one that will force him to sit out the rest of the 2013 season — forever called into question all of his achievements. Of course, Braun wasn’t the first player to be caught using steroids, and he won’t be the last. Their number includes Barry Bonds, baseball’s all-time home run leader, and Roger Clemens, a pitcher with 354 wins in his career. Within the next couple of weeks more players, most notably Alex Rodriguez, are likely to be punished for the same offense, some probably more severely than Braun.
One thing is different this time, however. Unlike previous attempts by players' union representatives to create a civil-rights issue over steroid testing, most present-day players have vigorously condemned Braun’s PED usage. The adverse reaction to Braun by other players was noticed and applauded by Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the organization that banned Lance Armstrong for life from competitive cycling for his use of steroids. According to Tygart, “It’s a new generation of athletes that are standing up. The culture’s been flipped on its head.”
That new generation is the Millennial generation. Millennials are a type of cohort that generational analysts call “civic.” Although some erroneously label Millennials as narcissistic and selfish, their record-breaking participation in community service efforts and the current deep decline in youth crime are just two of many behavioral facts that demonstrate that they are a well-behaved and team-oriented generation. Like other civic generations before them, Millennials are already bringing those positive traits to a Major League Baseball stadium near you. Before they are through flipping baseball’s culture, the national pastime is likely to experience its second golden age, similar to the one the previous civic generation, the GI Generation, brought to the game 80 years ago.
Most of baseball’s PED users have been members of the individualistic, iconoclastic Generation X. Even those X’ers who did not use steroids, rarely criticized those players who did. Compare that generational reaction to that of Millennial Max Scherzer, the Detroit Tigers' players' union representative.
“The whole thing has been despicable on his part. For me, as a player, you want to believe that the system works, but obviously he found a way around it. And when he did get caught, he never came clean … That’s why there’s so much player outrage toward him.” In fact, Scherzer doesn’t think Braun’s punishment was tough enough — he wants even more severe penalties for PED usage. He said, "We want to see either longer suspensions or whatever it takes to take away the incentive — the financial gain — taken away from players. Whether that’s voiding contracts, longer suspensions, you’re seeing every player jump on board that the penalty doesn’t fit the crime yet.”
But the Millennial generation’s contribution to baseball in the years ahead is going to be more positive than just condemning those who don’t compete fairly. Unlike most of the Gen X’ers before them, who focused on their individual achievements and large paychecks from whatever team was willing to pay them the most money, many Millennial players seem committed to the team that that originally signed them, trained them in the minors, and brought them to the big leagues.
In the same week that Ryan Braun was suspended, Red Sox second baseman and Millennial Dustin Pedroia signed an eight-year, $110 million contract two seasons before he would have become a free agent. Pedroia will clearly not suffer financially, but he likely could have received more money had he elected to go on the open market. However, there was more to his decision than the size of his paycheck. “This [Boston] is my home. I love being here. I love my teammates, love this city … A lot of teams passed on me because of my size [he’s 5’9” and weighs about 160 pounds] … That’s why I want to make sure I work as hard as I can to make sure they made the right choice in drafting me … I just want to make sure I’m playing my last game here.”
Pedroia is not the only Millennial generation ballplayer to make every effort to remain with his original team for the duration of his career. Dodgers pitching ace Clayton Kershaw has made plain his desire to remain in Los Angeles, and the Dodgers have reciprocated that interest. However, perhaps the most surprising case of a Millennial sticking with his first team is Cy Young award winner Felix Hernandez, who signed a seven-year contract extension with the small-market Seattle Mariners, a perennially non-contending team, last February. Most baseball observers believe that Hernandez could have made far more money and fame elsewhere.
In the first two decades of the 20th century baseball faced a crisis every bit as damaging to the game as steroid usage is now. That threat culminated when eight members of a generation of ballplayers described by baseball historian Bill James as “shysters, con men, drunks, and outright thieves” conspired with gamblers to throw the World Series. Like today, it took a new generation of players to rescue the game. Those GI generation players not only saved baseball, but also produced a golden era of high achievement on the field and record attendance in the stands. Baseball history is about to repeat itself in the Millennial era.
The most decisive force in national politics today is the millennial generation (born 1982-2003). Millennials re-elected Barack Obama and will represent more than one out of every three adult Americans by the end of this decade. Yet, more than six months after the 2012 elections, Congress has moved fitfully, if at all, to address this generation’s political agenda.
The most promising effort in the current session of Congress to address millennials’ concerns was the bipartisan effort in the Senate that secured passage of a comprehensive, if somewhat overblown, immigration reform bill. Forty percent (40%) of millennials are non-white and Mitt Romney’s ostrich-like approach to this issue helped motivate Hispanic and Asian-American millennials to vote overwhelmingly for the president. Still, in spite of this lesson, two-thirds of the Senate Republican caucus voted against the immigration reform bill. The Republican House is even more hostile to the idea, even with their professed bête noire of border security addressed with massive new funding for enforcement in the just passed Senate bill. GOP opposition to the bill is so entrenched that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has promised to not even bring it to a vote.
Millennials are a tolerant bunch and this continuing display of intolerance by congressional Republicans bodes particularly ill for the GOP’s chances of attracting the generation’s votes in the future. Tea Party-inspired efforts to pass a mean spirited, rather than a means tested, approach to food stamps, helped to doom the bi-partisan Senate version of the farm bill in the House as well. That same body did find the time and the votes to pass, for the 37th time, an irrelevant repeal of the Affordable Care Act, even though the passage of Obamacare was another key reason why millennials supported its namesake last November.
But probably the vote that was most out of touch with millennial attitudes and beliefs was the vote this month in the House to further limit abortion rights in this country. Perhaps the Republicans who forced that vote upon their colleagues missed Sandra Fluke’s spirited defense of women’s reproductive rights at the 2012 Democratic National Convention that resonated so positively with the Millennial women, two-thirds of whom voted for Barack Obama last year.
The failure of the current crop of older members of Congress to address the concerns of the millennial generation is not limited, however, to Republicans. The Democratic leadership in the Senate didn’t feel sufficient urgency, for instance, to prevent the interest rate on student loans to double before Congress adjourned for the July 4 holiday. Can anyone imagine them taking the same lackadaisical attitude if Social Security benefits were about to be cut? Even had the student loan issue been addressed in a timely manner, it still would not have dealt with the incredible burden of student debt, now over a trillion dollars, that is preventing many millennials from doing the things that young adults traditionally do, like starting a family or buying a house, that would contribute mightily to the nation’s economic recovery. The problem, however, goes ignored by members of both parties in both houses, most of whom were never asked, as millennials have been, to self-finance the education they and the country need to promote economic growth.
Congress is so out of touch with the beliefs and concerns of millennials that even the nine old men and women on the Supreme Court did a better job of addressing the generation’s agenda in their last session when the Justices declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
There have been other times in America’s history when Congress has stubbornly refused to deal with the needs of the nation’s newest generations. In 1868, one-third of a generation very much like today’s Boomers, the Transcendentalists, were booted from their congressional seats in favor of candidates from a younger, more modern generation. It was the largest generational landslide in the nation’s history — until now. If the current Congress continues to ignore Millennials, it risks suffering the very same fate — an outcome for which it will have only itself to blame.