Twitter makes my work so much easier. I’m sure you’ve found that to be true too. It’s magical. It opens doors. It facilitates conversation. It equalizes. Case in point: it took me 104 characters to land an interview with David Burstein.
Less than ten years ago, this could have been a much lengthier and more cumbersome process. It might have required telephone calls, lengthy correspondence, and the wooing of gatekeepers. But the ease and accessibility of a simple social tool made the interview you’re about to read possible in record time. Twitter is magical, people. We are living in the future.
The explosion of social media as a legitimate business communication tool is only one small way our view of work continues to evolve. As Millennials settle in to leadership roles they are impacting organizations and playing a huge part in the evolution of work itself. This was the topic of conversation for writer, filmmaker, and storyteller David Burstein and I one afternoon last month.
Burstein’s new book Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation is Shaping Our World examines how Millennials are profoundly impacting politics, business, media, and activism. I was particularly curious to hear how he thinks organizations and leadership will change given the impact of Millennials in the workplace.
Before we got to the future, though, we talked a little bit about the present. Burstein raised an interesting idea early in our conversation. In generations past, young people coming into the work place were in subordinate roles, almost exclusively. Workplace mentoring was done by the older, established generation. Teaching happened from the top down. Burstein believes, “It may be the first time in history that young people understand more about the future than the older generation. Millennials understand what the future is going to look like.” Millennials are in a unique position having come of age with the technological tools being widely used today. They are often more comfortable with that technology and better acquainted with its possibilities. This reality radically changes the workplace dynamic, can be off-putting and is understandably difficult for all parties to navigate.
Success in today’s workplace is dependent upon healthy intergenerational communication.
Leaders cannot be afraid to address generational differences directly. Burstein suggested, “It is a mistake for anyone to wonder, ‘What do you mean they don’t understand how I work?’” It is naïve to expect others to instinctively understand your point of view. Frank, honest intergenerational communication is vital in our current environment.
So assuming we communicate effectively today, what does Burstein think our workplaces will look like in ten years? He was quick to label the trend of telecommuting and remote workspaces as small potatoes. He foresees Millennials’ most consequential and lasting impact being made at a more structural and ideological level. “Millennial leaders will usher in bottom up empowerment and break down complex chains of command,” Burstein suggested. Millennials’ well-publicized hunger for feedback will bleed into their leadership and create more room for team interaction. Top down edicts from upper level management will give way to collaboration across pay grades.
3 Ideas from David Burstein to Give You Momentum
- Leaders cannot be afraid to address generational differences directly.
- If businesses want to succeed they must become more transparent
- Not all civic change can come from outside the existing political system
He also expects an increase in corporate transparency. Millennials understand the importance of honest, authentic communication. Burstein explains, “If businesses want to succeed they have to become more open.” Large corporations who wait too long to admit wrongdoing, attempt to control the story and refuse to apologize for mistakes will be seen as dinosaurs. Millennials value authenticity and that will continue to influence how they lead.
Since Burstein is also the founder of Generation18, a nonpartisan voter engagement organization, I didn’t want to miss the chance to discuss Millennial leaders’ participation in the political process.
He shares, “A great thing about this generation is that we are incredibly engaged in civic issues. We volunteer more, we are starting civic-minded businesses, and we focus on social enterprises. What we lack, despite high voter turnout, is a belief in the political system as a viable way to make change in the world.” There is a pervasive view that the current American political system is broken and many Millennials question, “Why even get involved?” They tend to want to make change from outside the system. He argues that using technology to connect people, to increase civic engagement and awareness and to expose issues is important. But taking the next step is crucial. Burstein explains, “We can’t make all the change we want from outside the political system. Continue to vote, yes, but more than that needs to happen. Smart people need to run for office.”
One might hope that when “smart” Millennials choose to enter the political realm they will encourage the same transparency there that they are fighting for in the corporate realm. Using social media as an equalizer elected officials can connect seamlessly and simply with their constituents. And perhaps widespread collaboration could become the norm instead of the exception. This sort of positive disruption is just what our American political system needs.
What organizational & leadership shifts are you seeing as a result of Millennials in your workplace?