Can Businesses Learn from the Class of 2009? Thousands of students will receive their college diplomas from colleges and universities all over the country in the coming weeks. My son Michael, is one of them. I want to publicly congratulate him and his peers for their hard work and accomplishments. I wish him and his friends the best of luck as they embark on a new journey in their lives as they face the many challenges that lie ahead. I am confident that with passion and perseverance, they will successfully drive the change they, and we, seek in the world.
For business leaders who don’t have college-aged kids, I strongly recommend that looking to the Class of 2009 for some insight into “what’s next” in the world of business. When I observe Michael and his friends, I see a group of talented, ambitious, and optimistic young adults with a fundamental desire to make a difference and improve today’s world. Scholars and skeptics can harp on this group as being the “entitlement generation” or even “the dumbest generation” however, I see a generation that is social, sustainable (green) and innovative.By dismissing these characteristics, we are underutilizing one of our country’s greatest resources – our youth.
The Class of 2009 can teach businesses how to share and collaborate with one another using social technologies to improve business. Humans are inherently social creatures, yet most traditional business processes have stripped us of our ability to connect with one another. What is amazing to me is that tomorrow’s generation of workers are born with the fundamental understanding of what it means to be social. Watching my kids grow up, I’ve seen the way they collaborate and communicate with their peers, share content online, and engage in social activities. They aren’t threatened by change or competition. In fact, they thrive off of participation and challenge. We don’t need to look much further than the Class of 2009 to understand that the future of business will constitute an open, co-creative, and hyper-connected environment.
The Class of 2009 can teach businesses how to think and act green and produce sustainable products and services. Environmental issues are at the forefront of global conversations and I’m convinced that young people today will convert all of the talk into action. This generation is growing up with a green and sustainable conscience. They are growing up understanding that we are depleting our worlds’ natural resources while at the same destroying our natural environment. The Class of 2009 can help businesses understand how to conserve resources, reduce waste, and define and build sustainable products and services that enhance our society. All together, these processes will improve our human condition and avoid taxing the environment. Even though some may say that today’s youth are all about “what’s now,” most of what they want serves as a catalyst for long-term initiatives. It is time for us to listen to the demands of today’s youth since the future is theirs?
The Class of 2009 can teach businesses how to think outside the box and create new, innovations that we all need. The voice of the consumer has never resonated more closely with marketers than it does today. When looking at campaigns like MyStarbucks.com or Dell’s Idea Storm, it’s apparent that people want to be heard. When looking at digital natives, I believe their technological aptitude, resourcefulness and social consciousness make them more than just consumers — . they are the future of R&D. Millennials are marketers by nature and can articulate what they want, how they want it and when they want it. By simply asking them about products, services, and ideas, companies can crowd source innovation to drive business growth and reduce costs.
In short, the Class of 2009 is more than just a group of bright-eyed optimists. They are technologists, thinkers, dreamers and doers. The question is, will the world give them the opportunity to shine or simply dismiss them as being too naïve? For companies looking to establish long-term success, I highly encourage they embrace the values of Millennials. What they’ll find is that social collaboration, sustainable models, and innovative thinking will produce better businesses for everyone.