Give the Digital Natives Room to Run

Bhumi Jariwala | June 15, 2015 |

How many Millennials do you know read encyclopedias, maps, or instructions? Not many. My generation—Millennials/Generation or Gen Y were born between 1981 and 1995—has mastered the art of search engines. We use GPS to do everything from finding local restaurants to driving somewhere. YouTube is our “learn how/show how” resource for education, entertainment, and even the smallest household tasks. We are digitally native and were raised in a world of big data (per a recent article in Forbes, there is no set definition for big data—it means both datasets that are extremely large and how information is being harnessed in new ways).

We embrace social media and instantaneous information. According to the 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce study, Gen Ys are adaptable, entrepreneurial, creative, and open to change—and there are a lot of us. Millennials are already the largest generation in the workforce, both in the US and globally, according to a global study by Dan Schawbel, the founder of Millennial Branding LLC. Millennials are so digitally native that how, where, and in what structure the workforce prefers to work is changing too. According to a Deloitte study on Millennials, 70% of “tomorrow’s future leaders worldwide may ‘reject’ what business as traditionally organizational has to offer, preferring to work independently by digital means in the long term.”

Great numbers of Millennials in the workforce—in your workforce—mean changes are coming, and in many cases are already here. But we also present great opportunity if our differences and the changes are embraced.

Do-it-Yourself Market Research

As emerging business leaders, we instinctively use information technologies to gather intelligence about people and the marketplace. When a Millennial starts a business, seeks investors, or manages a project, there’s little need for expensive consultants—we are capable of doing state-of-the-art market research ourselves. We have an unlimited range of low-cost apps and software tools at our disposal to do what once would have required deep pockets. Our knowledge of big data (e.g., databases, open source websites, public archives) and how to manipulate it has already conditioned us to be natural research pros.

The Imagination for Data

Big data has taught us, and gives us the opportunity, to be resourceful and hands-on. It has also raised our expectations of what is possible and made us thirsty for more innovation at a much quicker pace. As cell phone and other connected, smart device users, we are acclimated to a lifestyle of digitally integrated products and software. We are also inventing for a new, virtual environment with yet-to-be understood potential.

Portable Universities

When it comes to more specialized learning, we have a wide variety of inexpensive alternatives to the formal university route. For example, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) like Khan Academy, edX, and coursera offer online education aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web.

Digital “Smart” Style

The need for big budget, traditional advertising is decreasing in a world of viral and stealth marketing where the social networks of Millennials are assets in themselves. Millennials were raised with a PowerPoint mentality of communicating succinctly with pop cultural sophistication. In fact, we were raised on high-tech visuals, gaming, and virtual realities.

Intelligent Business Planning

With all of our information skills, as well as the scope of data available to us, we should have the means to create comprehensive business plans. For example, if we want to attract investors, we can easily assemble a broad array of information—beyond a traditional business plan—to incorporate relevant data on demographic, environmental, or social factors. We have a powerful, data-driven global infrastructure to source cheaper inputs for creating new products and services.

Collaborative Culture

If unable to attract resources from other conventional means, Millennials should feel at home in today’s collaborative environment. We can raise capital by taking advantage of crowdfunding communities—such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Rockethub. We can also seek out short-term, inexpensive talent by through crowdsourcing options like Innocentive, NineSigma, and Ideaconnection.

Green Conscience, Green Investing

We have also been raised with a global awareness from a society driven by big data and big expectations. Millennials have the potential to become savvy “green” investors thanks to new forms of business reporting that integrate both financial and non-financial data into more well-rounded information. For example, integrated reporting is used by organizations to efficiently and effectively communicate a more holistic view of their performance and prospects, one that extends beyond traditional financials to include manufactured, intellectual, human, social and relationship, and natural “capitals”.

No Fear

In a world where complexity can make some people nervous, Millennials seem less inclined to ponder the regulatory implications or legal liabilities of services in the “sharing economy”. Millennials sometimes have an instinct to leap forward into the unknown without the fear of failure. According to CIO Magazine in Australia, Millennials are more adaptable to change and less risk adverse.

Big Data Aptitude: How it All Comes Together

All of these factors come together to provide Millennials with an aptitude for big data that organizations can profit from. This aptitude is not based on academic or professional experience alone but is the product of culture, utility, and expectations that are exponential in terms of what is now possible. It is neither finite nor stationary. Big data is our state of mind. Its ingenuity has no permanent destination. 


Bhumi Jariwala

Bhumi Jariwala was previously the editor of the IFAC Knowledge Gateway. Ms. Jariwala has experience in communications, market research, and information technology. She is now at Disney Media and Entertianment at the Walt Disney Company. See more by Bhumi Jariwala


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