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3 Lessons from Millennials

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Written by: Michela Stribling

I kind of feel sorry for millennials. Every time I turn around, I seem to find an article that questions the millennial work ethic or examines their sense of entitlement or supposed narcissism. That’s just a bunch of hogwash.

Silicon Valley, where I live and work, has long attracted younger generations—be they Boomers, millennials or anything in between—whose radical ideas and willingness to challenge established ways of thinking gave rise, at least in part, to the tech subculture of innovation, IPOs, and venture-funded dreams. In essence, younger generations have been the economic backbone of the tech boom and millennials are no different.

The millennials with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work have taught me a thing or two about how to get things done.

1. Work together & collaborate

Self-reliance be damned, millennials understand that working together often yields better results. This two-heads-are-better-than-one approach to problem solving may be the logical consequence of growing up as digital natives, with social networks at the ready. Regardless, it’s worth investing heavily in enterprise social networks and other social collaboration tools to take full advantage of this trend (which, by the way, is not going to go away any time soon).

2. Learn the power of asking why

“But why?” That’s one of the hardest questions to ask a room full of people who have always done things a certain way. Millennials are rather fearless in this regard and their affinity for questioning the why makes them rather agile thinkers. Learn from their example and think critically about whether a project is truly worth doing, and if so, how it could be streamlined, consolidated, or approached in an entirely fresh manner.

3. Title does not equal authority

Most of the millennials I’ve worked with think nothing of tweeting the CEO of some company or other with a question. Indeed, they expect a prompt reply. They apply the same thinking within a corporate structure, too, sending suggestions to executives and building relationships with people up and down the entire organization. They expect a flatter hierarchy and believe that good ideas deserve an audience and full consideration, regardless of who thought them up.

So the next time you read about millennials and their supposedly woeful work ethic, consider that in fact, their approach to work and life is just different from, but no less valid than, that of prior generations. And then consider that perhaps we can learn from them, if only we have the courage to admit it.

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