In The Business of Good, serial and social entrepreneur Jason Haber intertwines case studies and anecdotes that show how social entrepreneurship is creating jobs, growing the economy, and ultimately changing the world. In this edited excerpt, Haber examines the six character traits that have created a unique new generation: the Millennials.
The Millennial Generation has six distinguishing traits that set them apart from other generations. When mixed together, the alchemy has unleashed upon us the new emperors of modern culture. The Millennial traits that have powered their central role in social entrepreneurship are: Collaborative, Achievers, Entrepreneurs, Sheltered, Accessible, Responsible.
Young people acting in a friendly, collaborative environment with classmates and colleagues to solve problems comes up time and time again when studying this generation. They thrive in an open atmosphere that encourages this kind of thinking. Millennials don’t go rogue, and they don’t go at it alone; they work together.
Millennials believe in themselves, but they also believe in their peers. And they’ll collaborate with just about anyone. Researchers Joeri Van den Bergh and Mattias Behrer note, “Contrary to previous generations, Gen Yers [another name for Millennials] were brought up in an atmosphere of equal relationships and co-decision-making.”
That’s a big shift from previous generations. It didn’t hurt that the popular TV shows of their youth, Blue’s Clues, Barney, and Bob the Builder, all focused on collaboration. But it’s so much more than what they were exposed to as children that shaped this generation. Every outgrowth of The Great Convergence (more connectivity and technology at an early age coupled with the news of the world) created this fundamental zeitgeist shift.
Millennials are serious about academic achievement. They’re the best educated students in U.S. history. Not since the Greatest Generation (educated in large part by the GI Bill) have so many students gone on to college and obtained advanced degrees.
The number of college applications has never been higher. And the number of students taking SATs and Advanced Placement (AP) coursework in high school has grown exponentially.
This generation rues failure, but unlike Generation X, they have a quick recovery from disappointment. They don’t lament failure and get stuck in neutral. They move on and find a new passion to pursue.
Ninety-four percent of Millennials believe college is essential to succeed in life. After succeeding in the classroom, Millennials set their eyes on succeeding in business.
The entrepreneurial nature of this generation is astonishing. Millennials have unleashed a torrent of entrepreneurship that rivals any other time in American history.
Fifty-five percent of Millennials are interested in starting their own business one day. It isn’t surprising they want to take matters into their own hands: 63 percent believe the largest barrier to innovation is the attitude of management. Bureaucracy, endless meetings, and standard operating procedures have no utility for Millennials.
Bentley University recently released a fascinating study that demonstrates just how entrepreneurial-minded Millennials have become. Only 13 percent of respondents said their career goal included rising on the corporate ladder. But 67 percent stated their goal of starting their own business. The head of Bentley’s entrepreneurial program, Fred Tuffile, says: “Millennials see chaos, distrust of management, breaking of contracts, and bad news associated with business. They’ve watched their relatives get fired and their peers sit in cubicles and they think, ‘There has to be a better way.’ ”
A decade from now, 75 percent of the entire U.S. work force will comprise these entrepreneurial magnets. This will have profound implications for the future of American business. Millennials will determine its very nature and ethos.
Since their early days, Millennials have led sheltered lives, far different from that of past generations. While growing up, in cars, they wore seatbelts. On bicycles, they wore helmets.
Earlier generations had far less supervised play time with friends. Once upon a time, parents didn’t know where their children went but simply expected them to return on time for dinner. That didn’t happen with Millennials.
It’s well documented that Millennials had the largest dose of helicopter parenting — typified by a parent who’s heavily involved in the daily activities and safety of their child. This sheltered environment may explain why Millennials are so close to their parents. Millennials came to know their parents as protectors, defenders, and their vanguard to the rest of the world. Since World War II, no generation has had this kind of parental relationship.
Millennials grew up with the internet. There was never a time for them when it didn’t exist. Even the older members of this generation had dial-up access. As a result, they expect the internet to be available to them everywhere and anywhere.
They are the early adopters. They set up tents outside Apple stores to await the release of the next game-changing product. They adapt, adjust, and alter their technology as new hardware and software enter the scene.
And of course their passion for accessibility has no bounds when it comes to mobile. That’s the environment in which they thrive. Mobile devices (tablets or phones) serve as their primary TV (they may not even own one), primary phone (it’s doubtful they have a landline), and primary way to communicate with their social networks.
Social networks are a huge part of Millennials’ accessibility. It is a two-way street, enabling information to become more accessible while bringing together millions of other Millennials.
One recent study found that 60 percent of Millennials rely on social media for keeping tabs on current events. They are disrupting traditional models and threatening the mainstream media domination on ratings. Buzzfeed, for example, grew by 81 percent in 2014 and is now more popular with Millennials online than NBC news, CBS News, and Fox News.
When we think of teenage rebellion, we think about drug abuse, lack of focus at school, and alienation from parents. But the rebellion exhibited from the Millennials is of a different order. Researchers Neil Howe and William Strauss once concluded, “Millennials are correcting for what teens see as the excess of today’s middle-aged Boomers: narcissism, impatience, iconoclasm, and a constant focus on talk (usually argument) over action.”
Today, youth-related violent crime is at an all-time low level. There has been a 51 percent drop in teen pregnancy since 1991. The amount of teenaged smoking has fallen precipitously. Drug use is down.
And Millennials aren’t just taking better care of their bodies. They are also making smart decisions about their finances. Millennials are less likely to have credit card debt than Generation Xers were at the same age and are more likely than previous generations to live within a budget. They haven’t saved as much as past generations, but since the oldest members of this group are only 35, the jury is still out on that front.
Eighty million strong, they are the largest generation in American history. And they are dead-set on making their mark on the world.