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Do You Think You Know What Millennials Need?

Steve Jobs knew what people wanted before they did. Maybe we know what Millennials need before they do?

I was asked this by a Baby Boomer executive at a membership engagement summit I was running last week. This was in response to my comment that the reason younger generations weren’t engaging with organizations was because what was being offered was no longer relevant. His response, in essence, was “We’re older, don’t we know what’s best for them?” Fair question, sir.

That’s a fair question to ask because up until a few years ago the answer would have been “yes”. The game was the same so those who had been playing knew how to win. However, the game has changed. You can thank the advent of technology for that.

In 1981 we saw the end of the Industrial Era. This era was marked by hierarchical, systems-based leadership and it is woefully inadequate for the needs of the technology-birthed Post-Industrial Era. This new era is driven by knowledge, innovation and pursuing people over profits. New game, new way of doing business. Therefore, kind sir, the answer is no. We don’t necessarily know what Millennials need, but we can learn if we’re willing.

I can’t say this for certain because I didn’t know him, but my guess is that Steve Jobs didn’t inherently know how to give people what they wanted before they did. I think he was focusing on the future, studying trends and anticipating what our needs would be based on where we were going. That or he was a magical genius. Since the rest of us aren’t magical geniuses the best thing we can do is accept that the game has changed and it’s time to learn a new playbook by looking to the future and letting go of the past.

Welcome to the Post-Industrial Era. The game has changed and so must we.


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