Millennials: Not an Age, a Mindset

One of the most important issues we need to address is not how to “understand millennials” or to figure out “what millennials want,” but to take a more profound look at how young women and men are thriving in a transformed work environment, and the implications this has for the rest of us. The big discussion around millennials isn’t just about a new generation – it’s about a new work mindset, and it’s here to stay.

We’re experiencing a transformative shift in how business happens in a hyper-connected world and why next generation leaders are embodying a new norm.

The new work structure is set up to amplify diverse voices, ideas and opinions — giving next generation women and men new opportunities to bypass traditional norms and rise to the top. These are leaders who are prioritizing process over programs, questions over answers, and influence over control.

But the future is not just about millennials; its about us all unleashing our collective capacities. By combining our vast resources and human capital in new ways and forging new connections on a global scale, we can all contribute to solving the major problems of our time in unprecedented ways.

Here are some tenants of the millennial mindset:

They build online communities: Think of Michelle Phan and Bethany Mota — millennial women who are transforming the cosmetics industry in a fascinating way. Both in their 20s, Phan and Mota have become the leading YouTube superstars, teaching their viewers about fashion and beauty. They exemplify the rise of passionate young women using new social media tools and their own curiosity — not market research — to make smart business decisions that are changing the $170 billion cosmetics industry.

As a CEO or an executive, if you don’t think social media platforms like YouTube are something you need to understand and use, then consider this: Mac Cosmetics most-watched video on YouTube in March was “Viva Glam—Behind the Scenes with Rihanna.” The video, for which the company, only attracted 58,000 views. By contrast, Michelle Phan’s video, “Matte About You,” posted on March 7 on her own YouTube Channel. Within one week the video had 1.2 million views, a standard response from Michelle’s fans.

As Women’s Wear Daily put it, beauty bloggers like Michelle Phan are “running mascara rings around the major brands.”

They leverage co-ownership: Think of the women leading the Collaborative Consumption movement like Rent the Runway co-founders Jenny Fleiss and Jennifer Hyman and ZipCar co-founder Robin Chase. Both of these companies took our concepts of ownership and access and flipped them on their heads, effectively disrupting the transportation and fashion industries. Because of how Rent the Runway founders thought creatively about our connected world, more people than ever before have access to designer clothes. But that’s not the only channel of access that they opened up. Designer brands, although at first reluctant to sign on to Rent the Runway, gained exposure to a whole new set of women as potential customers. As Hyman told Inc. Magazine, over 90% of their renters have reported that they purchased something from the brand they rented from, post rental.

They create hubs for connections and networks: Think of the women transforming career knowledge, such as Levo co-founders Caroline Ghosn and Amanda Pouchot. The ethos of Levo is that women should ascend together, strengthening every member on their own path. When co-founders Caroline Ghosn and Amanda Pouchot were working in consulting, they noticed their colleagues with mentors moved up much faster. But the field of potential mentors was limited, especially for young women. This is where they got creative, realizing that with the technology available, mentorship doesn’t have to match a traditional model. Levo combines online mentoring with in-person events, leveraging different platforms and networks to help its more than 8 million users thrive. Online video chats with powerful women like AOL content chief Susan Lyne draw up to 10,000 viewers, and Levo now has 30 local chapters, from Detroit to Madrid.

The millennial mindset recognizes the importance of building connections. To be innovative, you must be at the crossroads of a wide range of diverse networks. The future of business is not about more cutthroat competition but about joining together to get things done and opening up our networks to each other to drive innovation.

This piece originally appeared in Fortune.

© Erica Dhawan  All rights reserved


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