In sheer numbers -- 95 million strong -- they will soon eclipse the Baby Boomers. They'll be taking control of -- or certainly having significant impact on -- the worlds of business and politics. They'll have change how we teach and learn, and how we entertain ourselves.
They're the Millennial Generation -- young people born between 1982 and 2003.
Millennials have already had an impact on politics in the U.S. Many came of voting age just as Obama was running for President, and the Millennials are credited for helping push him over the top. They're sure to be an even bigger force in politics as the younger end of the group gets to vote within ten years.
A new book by Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais (Millennial Momentum, Rutgers University Press, US$ 26.95) takes a thorough look at the Millennial generation and comes up with some interesting findings that predict how they will reshape America. The findings present a hopeful picture for the future, which is encouraging during this downbeat period we're now in.
I found this book while on vacation two weeks ago, and I had planned to bring it home to plod through what I figured would be heavy reading. Instead, it was an easy and enjoyable read, and I finished it in less than two days while lying on the beach.
The book is based on the premise (backed by research) that roughly every 80 years in the U.S., a generation emerges that brings major change to our nation. The authors categorize generations by a variety of traits, and the Millennials are what they call a "civic generation" -- one that is group-oriented, as opposed to my fellow Boomers, who've been criticized as being the "me generation."
The book takes us though past generations, examining their traits, beliefs and accomplishments. Each generation seems to fit into one of four categories: Idealists (Baby Boomers are in the group), Reactives, Civic, and Adaptive.
Civics, the book says, are generally raised in a protected manner that emphasizes adherance to group norms and social standards. As adults, they tend to focus on resolving societal challenges and building (or rebuilding) institutions. They tend to have a strong feeling of optimism that they can bring about positive change, even as they come of age during periods of turmoil and stress (like today's economic distress and political divisiveness).
Demographic researchers call the confluence of a generational change and a drastic altering of the old order a "generational turning," and they point to previous turnings that brought about major change to our nation -- the American Revolution, the Civil War and the New Deal of FDR's presidency.
It's difficult to explain it properly in a few paragraphs here, but the book does a great job of showing how the unique traits of this new generation -- from their diverse ethnicity to their technological sophistication to their acceptance of and need for instant and unfiltered communication -- sets them up to bring great change to our society, including fixing or reshaping some of the institutions many of us have become disenchanted with, from government to business to organized religion to education.
The book covers it all. While there may not be an eye-opening new discoveries, it puts the generational change into an interesting context. For marketers, especially, it offers a look at what may or may not engage or motivate this enormous group which is -- or soon will be -- in our sights.
Millennium Momentum is worth a read.
Here's a review from the Stand Bookstore site:
In this timely analysis of demographic data, Winograd and Hais (Millennial Makeover) examine the habits, values, and desires of the generation born between 1982 and 2003. Turning away from the apathetic and introverted attitudes of Generation X, the disillusioned idealism of the boomer generation, and the pragmatism of the silent generation, Millennials most resemble the G.I. generation, which supported the New Deal and oversaw a radical reshaping of government's role in improving quality of life in America. Like the G.I.s, Millennials are a "civic generation," one that responds to fear, uncertainty, and doubt by attempting to better the world through public service, personal engagement, and demand for a transparent and responsive government. The most racially diverse and ideologically tolerant population the U.S. has ever known, Millennials are also the best networked group of humans in history. Believing that every consumer choice, every vote, every blog post and tweet matters, young people come of age expecting to be heard and to make change. Although still gaining momentum, Millennial thinking has already proved itself powerful—the networked grassroots organization that elected Barack Obama is the book's most persuasive example. Though general readers might be put off by the academic quality of Winograd and Hais's prose, the book offers important insights into the dynamic, interdependent forces that will shape America's future.