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.
For centuries, explorers searched for the legendary golden city of El Dorado, seeking instant wealth in the jungles of South America. But today’s treasure trove may be found much closer to home; cities like El Dorado, Arkansas, for example, that have successfully linked their economic development strategy to improving the educational attainment of their residents.
El Dorado, a city of about 20,000 people that was at the heart of Arkansas’s oil boom in the 1920s has been hard pressed to reprise that economic growth experience in this century. Instead of chasing after the fool’s gold of becoming cool, it has found a way to attract new residents and increase its economic vitality by promising its public school students a free college education if they graduate from high school with good grades. That promise has the potential to provide the critical glue in holding together a broad based economic recovery not just for cities such as El Dorado but for entire states or even the country.
The El Dorado Promise is a scholarship program established and funded by Murphy Oil Corporation, the town’s largest employer. Modeled after a similar program in Kalamazoo, MI, It provides graduates of the city’s high school a scholarship covering tuition and mandatory fees that can be used at any accredited two- or four-year, public or private, educational institution in the US up to an amount equal to the highest annual resident tuition at an Arkansas public university.
Since its inception in 2007, 1239 students have taken advantage of the offer. Over 90% of them have completed at least one year of college. The first high school class to enjoy this benefit has graduated after five years from college at a rate almost 40% greater than the state’s higher education student population. These gains in acquiring the skills necessary to be competitive in today’s global economy have been achieved by virtually all of the city’s high school students, over 90% of whom graduated from high school last year.
Furthermore the culture of a college-bound student population is now permeating throughout the school district, with a recent study finding that students in grades three through eight in the city scored significantly higher than their matched peers in nearby school districts in both math and literacy. The greatest gains have come from those who were the youngest when the Promise was announced.
The goal of the El Dorado Promise was not just greater educational attainment, however. The visionaries who established the program also wanted to use this program to improve the community’s economic vitality and quality of life. They have clearly done that. Enrollment in the city’s schools was up 5% in just the first four years of the program’s existence. As the Promise website says, “the prospect of an increasingly educated workforce gives economic development leaders new tools to attract businesses to the region.”
The first such Promise was made in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2005 by still anonymous benefactors seeking to restore the reputation of a city made famous in 1942 by the Glenn Miller Orchestra’s hit tune about a “gal” who lived there. Rather than raise taxes to balance the city’s budget, those who established the Kalamazoo Promise offered a fully paid four-year scholarship to any public institution of higher education in Michigan to any student who went to the city’s high schools for all four years. Under the terms of the Kalamazoo Promise, students have no obligation to repay the money or even to reside in Kalamazoo after they graduate from college.
The results are very similar to those of El Dorado. Kalamazoo’s student population is up 17.6% and dropout rates have been cut in half. Ninety percent of the city’s female African-American high school graduates have gone on to college. On the economic front, the proportion of residential construction in the city rose sharply from around 30% to nearly 50% of all permits issued in the greater Kalamazoo area. The community’s careful tracking of the results has identified 1600 families who say they are living in the city because of the Promise.
The economic challenges that caused El Dorado and Kalamazoo to up their game in getting local residents to graduate from high school and go on to college are no different than the challenge facing the country as a whole in trying to create a competitive workforce in today’s increasingly global and technology driven economy. For example, the Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce estimates that 62% of the jobs in the United States by the year 2018 will require at least some college education – for example a certificate for a specific skill – and that more than half of those jobs will require a bachelor’s degree. Unless the nation wants to fill those jobs with immigrants from other countries, it will have to do a much better job of giving each American who graduates from high school a chance to pursue a two year skill certificate or a baccalaureate degree.
A promise that rewards good academic performance in high school with a scholarship that pays for four years of college tuition has demonstrated it can make a major difference in achieving our educational and economic goals. Now it’s time for the rest of the country to find the gold that Kalamazoo and El Dorado have already discovered. Just as the country, as part of its overall economic development strategy, once expanded access to a universal free education first for primary schools and later for high schools, it must now find ways to make these two pioneering cities’ promise to their young people America’s Promise to all of its youth.
Also Published at
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.
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
The current Congressional debate over Obama’s request to attack Syria for its use of chemical weapons embodies the same generational consequences and disagreements as the debate over the United States joining the League of Nations did almost one hundred years ago. The outcome of that vote settled the direction of American foreign policy for two decades, the span of a generation. The outcome of today’s debate may well have the same consequences for shaping the role of the United States in the world for another generation.
In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson personally led an ultimately unsuccessful campaign to convince the US Senate to ratify the Versailles Treaty ending World War I, which included the establishment of a League of Nations. Wilson, who firmly believed in compromise and conciliation as the best solution to future disputes between nations, was a member of the Progressive generation, an adaptive archetype similar to today’s seniors, members of the Silent Generation. Wilson told the Senate in July 1919 that "a new role and a new responsibility have come to this great nation that we honor and which we would all wish to lift to yet higher levels of service and achievement". Opposition came from Republican Senators such as William Borah of Idaho, a member of the younger Missionary generation, whose idealist attitudes most resemble today’s Baby Boomers. Wilson’s opponents focused on his idea of a continuing role for the United States in world affairs around Covenant X of the League of Nations, which required all member states to come to the aid of any other member who was a victim of external aggression. The treaty’s defeat caused the U.S. to assume a relatively passive role in international affairs that didn’t end until the Nazi conquest of much of Europe led President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to propose the Lend Lease Act, which Congress passed in 1941.
Now, another Democratic President has asked another Congress divided along generational lines as well as by partisanship to authorize the continuation of the United States’ role as the world’s policeman that has been the national consensus since World War II. The very first vote on the issue in the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee revealed the generational split that is likely to continue when the full Senate and House take up the issue. The average age of the seven U.S. Senators voting against the resolution was almost eight years younger than the ten U.S. Senators who voted to authorize the President to use military force. Both members of Generation X on the committee, Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Christopher Murphy (D-CT) cast bipartisan “ no” votes. The most strident opposition came from GOP Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, born on the cusp of generational change in 1963. He happily embraced attacks from his older Republican colleagues, who argued that his streak of libertarianism would return the country to the isolationist path it abandoned after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Unfortunately, none of the members of Congress who will cast final votes on the resolution are members of the nation’s largest and most diverse generation, Millennials. The debate comes too soon for them to be eligible to serve in the Senate, but their attitudes and beliefs are certain to have an impact on the nation’s foreign policy in the longer term. Millennials are more likely to support intervention by the United States on behalf of causes than on disputes between nation-states. For instance, only 12 percent of Millennials express support for the United States intervening to promote democracy, whereas 42 percent support using the U.S. military to halt genocide. They are also more inclined to support efforts when they represent the concerted action of allies, rather than a go-it-alone decision by the United States. By a three-to-one margin, Millennials believe that the United States should take the opinion of other countries into account when making foreign policy decisions, and about one quarter of them don’t believe the country does that frequently enough.
President Obama’s initial reaction to the use of chemical weapons reflected his sensitivity to these generational attitudes. He was spurred into action against Syria because it violated the prohibition on the use of such weapons by the Geneva Accords of 1925--cause enough in his opinion to warrant retaliation by the United States. When efforts to gain support for such action failed in the United Nations and in the British House of Commons the president decided to turn to Congress and seek its approval as a way to build consensus for the strikes. However in doing so, the administration inevitably had to accommodate arguments that such action was necessary to project our power against rivals such as Iran and in support of allies such as Israel in order to win over support from older members of Congress who tend to see the world through a more traditional, balance-of-power lens.
The push and pull of generational and partisan differences will continue to shape today’s watershed debate over Syria in the Congress. Whether its outcome lasts for decades or is simply another step in an ongoing debate about America’s role in the world in the 21st century will depend on the degree to which its final resolution resonates with the attitudes and beliefs of the Millennial generation that will ultimately determine the nation’s future.
Millennials & Foreign Policy
Why elder statesmen have a hard time embracing leading from behind. Millennials' belief in teamwork and consensus is changing America's approach to foreign policy.
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:
Although King’s dream of a future where children in America would be ”judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” is not yet here, the nation’s youngest generations, particularly Millennials (born 1982-2003), are hastening the day when his dream will come true. Most of the ninety-five million Millennials are united in their belief that everyone should be included in the group and they have the numbers to make that desire come true.
But they won’t go about it with the kind of confrontational approach that Boomers in the 1960’s used to change the course of the country. Millennials believe in collaboration and the importance of finding win-win solutions to any problem. Their radically different strategy for creating societal change from the bottom up will mean that Dr. King’s dream is more likely to be realized quietly, in one community, school, and workplace at a time, than through mass protests and demonstrations that are an echo of America’s past.
Millennials Will Create a More Inclusive and Tolerant America
Video from Mike & Morley
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.