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It's the Tools, Stupid
Are millennials really so different from prior generations?
Mon, 1 Feb 2016 12:00:00 PDT

It's the tools, stupid! Clearly I'm not a Millennial, using a phrase dating from the Clinton era. So why am I talking about Millennials?

Well, it's not entirely the tools. As with every generation, there are real changes in the behaviors and characteristics of Millennials compared to the previous generations.

What we observe.

According to the Pew Research Center study "Millennials in Adulthood", Millennials show a decline in younger marriage, are more racially diverse, are less trusting of others, believe they will be financially comfortable, tend to be more liberal, and are less religious.

It seems everyone is glued to their mobile devices, especially Millennials. All of us use our devices to listen to music, watch videos, read the news, do just about anything that can be done digitally, and communicate with each other.

Communicating digitally has changed what community means. No longer do you have to call people to arrange a meeting, wonder if they are on their way, and find a meeting hall. Apps like Facebook, Linked-In, Meetup, etc. have made it easy to find any kind of group you want and meet with them pretty much any time you feel like reading or tapping. Millennials "natively" do this, though meeting in person is still hugely important as we see with the bar scene or technology "incubators", etc.

(Photo courtesy of Huffington Post, Library Catalog Cards For Classic Books.)

Political action is happening on the internet and less on the street - at least initially. Even demonstrative acts, which in the past would have had to be physical, often happen digitally: denial of service to a website, hijacking a CEO's Facebook page, etc.

Away with clutter. If it can't be stored digitally, it probably is a very special memento or heirloom. Why waste time dusting tchotchkes when there is so much else to do? Big homes are out and possessions are not important except what is worn and, of course, the mobile phone.

Work needs to be meaningful. Millennials are hoping for jobs where they aren't just a cog but have an identity in their workplace. The distinction between work and play is blurred, it is more important to make work meaningful than to just get through the day so you can enjoy the evening, it's more important to question things, make things better, rather than just do the job.

Work relationships are often virtual. Gone are paper schedules, phone calls. Instead we see more texts and on-line sharing of practically everything, as well as using technology to keep track of tasks and setting reminders.

And, what of it?

Some of these observations are true merely because Millennials are young. Every recent young generation has tended to be more liberal, optimistic, and Spartan. During this phase of life people are figuring out who they are, where they want to be, and just trying to enjoy life.

Some behaviors are probably more due to the environment. Not just the physical environment - nature, pollution, land use - but also the demographic environment of a larger mix of races, cultures, and politics.

One of the biggest environmental changes has been the availability of technology and, with it, the phenomenal ease of access to an overwhelming amount of information. No prior generation has had anything like this.

(Photo courtesy of Ohio State University, switchboard operator - yes, this is where the terms "phone jack" and "patch cord" came from.)

The increase of technology use, higher level of education, and access of information could be the strongest identifying factors of Millennials. These factors allow more autonomy, more visibility of other cultures and the rest of the world, and more access to success without climbing the traditional corporate ladder.

With these "tools" at hand, Millennials are able to do what prior generations did in much harder ways. Now you can shop on line, start your own special interest group on line, and choose where-who-what media to listen to rather than just passively receive content from the national broadcasters.

Oh, so why am I talking about Millennials? Because I have a mobile software product that can be used by any generation but will likely be adopted most rapidly by Millennials. Here at Perinote, we are listening, watching, and tailoring the product to fit.

Read what others have to say.

Pew Research Center, March 2014
Millennials in Adulthood

Empower HER, May 2015
Delete and Dump: Organize and Prioritize Like a Millennial

John Egan, SpareFoot Blog, November 2014
SpareFoot Clutter Survey: Are Millennials the Messiest Age Group in the U.S.?

Kathleen Kelly Janus, Stanford Social Innovation Review, July 2014
Three Ways to Engage Millennial Donors

Forbes, March 2013
7 Surprising Ways To Motivate Millennial Workers

Kirstyn Scott, The Halo Group
Millennials on Millennials

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