Blended Generation Think Tank: The Millennial Mindset Definition Creates more Questions

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When I first explored this topic of the Millennial Mindset, I realized that it may be one area that may actually mitigate the generational divide that exists today. Here are the key insights gathered from our discussion  The Millennial Mindset Comes to Light:

  • Millennial Mindset is generation agnostic. It really seeks to identify people who ARE predisposed to being Millennial based on specific traits.

  • Brian Fanzo said the strongest differentiator that defines Millennials is the pace of innovation; Millennials are not only used to this pace of change, they willing to fail fast.
  • Pew Research’s test, How Millennial Are YOU? (which each panelist took) looks towards the mean of the study and does not necessarily look at outliers – people we defined as the early adopters. The traits that are therefore prevailing in GenY appear to exist in the top percentile of GenX.
  • Factors that influence the Mindset also include culture and environment. Where you live and where you work and whether it’s urban or rural will determine:
    • rigidness vs openness of values
    • access to innovation or new tech and the extent to which you are aware of or will embrace change.

Our Blended Panel included:

  • John Graham – CEO Egofree Media Group – older Millennial
  • Joseph Gier – Software Engineer, “glidepath” to retirement – late Boomer
  • Ross Quintana – Social Media Strategiest – younger GenXer
  • Ryan Pannell – Hedge Fund Manager – middle GenXer
  • Tiffany Daniels – Non-profit and Community Relations – older Millennial

You can listen or watch the entire Hangout here or read the recap below:

Are you a Millennial?

We asked those that were not on the panel the last time to tell us the results and their thoughts on the Pew Survey.

Joseph noted that the questions were “leading,” with perhaps the goal of determining particular outcomes. The questions posed were not specifically to “Millennials,” but rather elements of the current environment.

All the panelists scored 78 or higher (Note: a minimum score of 73 = Millennial), except for Ross Quintana (66). While Ross is a strong adopter of tech, other questions that, such as whether he had a tattoos or political interest lowered his score.  From my own viewpoint, the opinions that Ross has shared thus far reveal a clear alignment with the current GenY definition, but the survey indicated otherwise.

Ryan Pannell, not a huge fan of the Millennials he’s worked with,  scored a 97 and was shocked by the outcome.  Managing Millennials at work he has witnessed a lack of basic work etiquette, including one woman who could not make it into work before 10 AM, and those who wanted immediate success.

We continued to explore some of these traits defined by Pew….

Does the information age impact religion?

We are attempting to asses current values that impact Millennial views;  how do they see the world? How do they make decisions with respect to companies, government and societal issues?

The information age has created an environment of diverse viewpoints; sites like Buzzfeed, or Upworthy – have crippled traditional journalism. Access to information has heightened social consciousness, and allows all of us to question what we already know and how we were raised. The path our parents dictated for us no longer defines our religious affiliation. Consider this from Pew

Millennials think “profit” means more than just cash in the bank, they want to work for innovative companies that improve the communities around them, and they buy from ethical businesses that support solutions to specific social issues.

In 2010, Pew  came out with this conclusion:

Compared with their elders today, young people are much less likely to affiliate with any religious tradition or to identify themselves as part of a Christian denomination. Fully one-in-four adults under age 30 (25%) are unaffiliated, describing their religion as “atheist,” “agnostic” or “nothing in particular.

John noted that perhaps the question of religion should extend to spirituality.  Increased connections allow each of us to find similar attributes and beliefs in others that do not necessarily fit within a hard-lined religion. Timing is everything. Tiffany believes that GenY may be looking for more traditional church structure when they begin having families.

Ross noted that Millennials are much more aware and are actively thinking about spirituality and religion. Joseph provided this wise conclusion:

When you’re at a certain milestone in your life, self-examination, new values, new motivations, people you meet and trust will determine your behavior. When you find someone and you choose the path to marriage, you will morph into a different set of values that will be influenced by that significant other.


Do Millennials need to adapt to work culture OR does the existing culture need to morph?

This topic stirred a lot of discussion. John Graham, who worked in corporate banking, stated:

Hierarchies work in the industrial model. It does not work with Millennials

Ryan relayed his a story of an intern who addressed him (his boss’ boss’ boss) as “Hey Ryan.” Ryan, a GenXer, would never have done that as a young intern.

John clarified that Millennials are used to connecting to people ever, and they look for commonalities. “I connect with you as a human first.” Ryan responded that while he agrees with the global connectivity, you must understand the culture of those you are connecting with. That’s not hierarchical, but rather how they interact. In his experience, Ryan pointed out ”

For Millennials, they did not make the effort to understand the culture of the client or the company, and how they should modify their behavior to increase the chances of connectivity

And while I argued that would come with grooming on the job, especially for those coming out of school, Tiffany was quick to point out, “NO, it’s not OK:

We (GenY) grew up calling parents by their first names. My parents disallowed that and I learned to ask people how they want to be addressed. I don’t assume. As a 21 year old out of college that should not be an excuse. There is still respect. I still would love the opportunity to be addressed aas Ms. until I give you the opportunity to tell you who I am. I hate when people call me Tiff. I never gave you permission – you just assumed it was ok.

The digital medium dictates a certain etiquette, but it needs to be augmented by coaching and mentoring that may not necessarily come from one’s upbringing. John’s perception of the current environment:

Within the current corporate culture there is this unstated norm that impresses upon its employees to remain silent when spoken to, and to do your job. But when a company says they want progressive, and out of the box thinking and increased collaboration, we call Bullshit every time. That labels us negatively. Saying one thing and doing another is so foreign to us because we live in a transparent world.

What was clear was that GenX went through similar circumstances when they were entering the workforce. Ryan noted that it was against their nature to continue working the 90-hour work week their predecessors had created. However, Boomers wanted the the expensive car and the large house. GenXers wanted something different. They wanted some work-life balance.

What many companies must realize today is that the formula for engaging employees needs to morph with the values of the incoming workforce.  “The shift is happening in business. Companies can either ignore it, be afraid of it, or figure out how to integrate it”, said Ross. “We can’t solve today’s problems with the same [archaic] thinking.”

In Hedge Fund industry, Ryan was stern in  his response.

What does a Millennial need? It doesn’t matter. If you want to be a brain surgeon you have a rigid set of requirements and specific type of person that fits this job. It’s been that same mindset for 200 years. For my industry [Hedge funds] we look for people with creativity and very specific skills. We are groomed by people with 20 years of experience.

However, we are looking for ideas and different ways of thinking. You have to have innovation for the business to thrive. People who have sat in those roles for so long think the same way. That one kid from robotics, who does not know a thing about stocks or equity management but is able to point out a correlation that no one has seen before is providing absolute value to the business.

It does not necessarily mean the corporate world must swing their policies and culture to accommodate GenY. Millennials, especially when they are trying to succeed in the specific companies with unique cultures, they will need to learn to adapt to the requirements of the job. Overtime, their own influence may yield change. It’s a dance. Ryan put this succinctly

How can companies get what they need out of what their employees are willing to provide?


Every Generation experienced enormous change. Why is technology the differentiator today?

Facebook  birthed this chicken and egg discussion:




I argued that technology is the driver of this mindset. Technology has meant: the dominance of the consumer voice (which has largely been a whisper previously), the lack of corporate control, the radical changes in the way we communicate. Organizations are realizing that they need to change. While the outside world is changing, too corporations have remained stagnate.

The openness, the awareness of new applications may draw Millennials away from environments where innovation and agility are flourishing. The findings of this study aren’t surpising:

Technology, media, and telecommunications (TMT) most attractive employers. TMT ranked most desirable sector and the one to provide the most valuable skills according to Millennials. Men (24 percent) were nearly twice as likely as women (13 percent) to rank TMT as the number one sector to work in. Among broader sectors, leadership is perceived to be strongest in the TMT sector (33 percent).

Does that mean that industries that outside of these sectors may not be favored by Millennials?

I work in the media and tech sector, and while many are drawn here, the assumption of change, progression and agility is still wildly overestimated, especially in advertising. I have had discussions with colleagues  (advertising and digital media) who are especially frustrated with this lack of agility. Many of them have been stifled because their company refuses to change, unless they have to.

Jobs are scarce these days, and there is no infrastructure to keep employees engaged. It’s a vicious cycle.

Are we closer to a definition of the Millennial Mindset?

This hangout provided more questions than answers. We all agreed that the Pew Survey was misleading.

The discussions revealed more disparities in opinion, and it is clear that we need to continue the discussion to gain clarity.

Insights from this discussion came after the hangout on Facebook:

Joseph Gier:We are at a time where the has been a convergence of  things that have encouraged and fostered this Mindset we are all speaking of.
Well designed consumer technologies that have been largely available and accessible to the general public. Technology that is designed intuitively enough that a toddler could pick it up and use it … with software useful enough to learn, experiment and extend its utility.
2) An infrastructure of network accesses, rich with information and opportunities to connect, further extend and enhance those experiences and might even allow them to morph into something completely different and deeper namely to learn how to work and act collaboratively, understand transparency and validation and have a what I call a healthy disrespect for the status Quo. “


Ryan Pannell: “Ultimately I see an increasingly under-parented and wholly under served youth, being churned out in massive numbers, without many of the interpersonal and communicative skills older generations take for granted – and then punished for somehow not learning that it would be the lack of those skills they would be judged by. Being incubated in a digital environment isn’t a good thing. It’s a stark testament to the fact that we’ve failed to ensure there is breadth in their education that includes those human characteristics that will never be able to be replicated or replaced by a machine, and which we so badly need to cultivate.”

John Graham: “Dualities exist in all things in life. The same hammer than can build a house can also kill a man. Technology is no different.”

John Graham: “The education system was designed to support the factory model. The entire structure is a feeder for work based on productivity without creativity.”

At ArCompany we  analyze data gathered from social media, websites, forums and search. This research helps inform and guide the communication efforts of many brands. If you want to learn more about implementing meaningful insights, we’re here to help.

Image source: Don’t Piss Off Gen Y

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One thought on “Blended Generation Think Tank: The Millennial Mindset Definition Creates more Questions

  1. Steve_Dodd says:

    Rats, I’m so sorry I missed this. What a fun discussion. I feel like there are two key takeaways
    1. We (as parents) created the “Millennial Monster” and now we’re trying to “fix” it as it’s coming back to bite us (and them)!
    2. This is truly a mindset and has nothing to do with age or generations. We all suffered from something similar that actually got repaired through experiences and maturity. Thankfully, once we’re through this we won’t have another Millennial stereotype for another thousand years.

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