Stop calling your kids Millennials! Millennials are social-minded. Millennials are self-absorbed. Millennials have a digital sixth sense. Millennials can’t focus. Millennials don’t care about high-paying careers. Millennials aim for comfortable & meaningful lifestyles.
Those and more fill lines in newspapers, hours of TV, and anxious debates in boardrooms. Everything and its opposite are true.
Nonsense. Millennials don’t exist.
Sure, “Millennials” is a great concept to sell books and consulting hours. Parents and business owners reassure themselves that they’re not the only ones at loss understanding the youth. Let’s offer an iPhone as employment benefit! That should do the trick. Because, of course, we offered a TV set to the generation that grew up with watching it. Because of course, whilst we are all addicted to our smartphones, the youth is what’s concerning.
Because, finally, you clearly remember being understood by your elders when you were you, and, no, you didn’t see any shortcomings in the world around you.
The concept of “generation” merely points to this eternal truth: the youth will consider their parents as old farts and the latter will think their kids as irreverent.
Youth is defined by the freshness that a lack of legacy gives it. Let’s change the system, let’s change the world. And it’s not different today.
Or is it?
By focusing on the surface—the technologies, the behavior—, we overlook the undercurrent, the massive shift taking place everywhere around us. One that no amount of workplace strategy, IT investment or public policy can influence.
The combined forces of deflation—technology becoming cheaper—, the platforms— the wider ability for everyone to leverage those technologies— and the networks— the global reach at our fingertips—isn’t only disrupting businesses or even societies. It’s disrupting who we are. It’s disrupting our identities.
For all previous “generations” (if you insist using that term) who might have had hopes and dreams of changing the system, their means were actually limited.
Those are now becoming democratized, accessible to everyone, leverageable by all, not only a wealthy elite—or a wealthy corporation.
For the first time in our history, changing the world is within reach of the many.
The rise of entrepreneurship is thus no accident. The forces that made us coalesce and create corporations—to maximize access whilst keeping transaction costs low —are weakened. It’s never been as easy to put an idea to life (you can build a startup for less than 5000 pounds!) whilst lowered transactions costs give the advantage to the flexibility of networks over the rigidity of organizations.
“Be whoever you want to be” isn’t just an advice hopeful parents give their children anymore, it’s what people actually do by becoming entrepreneurs. They choose their own path. They attempt to shape the world on their own terms. And the more do, the more obsolete the flimsy concept of generation, a rather monolithic set of values and shared experiences (say, seeing the landing on the Moon, contesting a war) is becoming. How can you expect to define a group when anyone can give it a try on its own?
Entrepreneurs and innovators share similarities with travelers, they welcome unknown territories. They have a character, a resounding grit and an unquenchable thirst for curiosity that make them rise above optimism. If there’s one trait all “Millennials” share, it’s that one. This is why entrepreneurship is their counterculture.
Our counter-culture. For we are all Millennials.
Paul Papadimitriou is the founder of Intelligencr. He is a global advisor & speaker on the new rules of trade, the emerging models and technologies that fight innovation inequality. He invests in startups, constantly travels for new ideas, produces shows on innovation and loves chocolate.