“The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction are we moving”
Oliver Wendell Holmes
With so much change and even uncertainty today, it can be easy to get sucked in to the hype that we’re headed towards doomsday with a generation of entitled bratsleading the way. I must disagree; there are clear signs that the future is shaping up quite nicely. In fact this may be the best century ever.
To state the obvious, the world is changing…rapidly. Witness the progress achieved by a growing group of charismatic and or enigmatic leaders: modern day versions of Michael Angelo, Tesla and Einstein. They are labeled as founders and risk takers, disruptors and innovators. They follow the classic hero’s journey; one that can lead to prosperity or outright failure. That journey is documented live across Twitter feeds and blogs; they receive both praise and criticism. Although there are many problems with this world, if you observe closely, you’ll witness progress. Proof that the future can be brighter than we thought: nascent companies achieving exponential advancement. The only limit faced is the speed at which they can expand. They wait impatiently for the rest of us to catch up. And the key ingredients to even greater progress are to harness the talent of the coming generation, assume a different perspective and welcome in a new era.
I have espoused Daniel Pink’s vision of the “Conceptual Age”. An era defined as one that is reliant on creativity and invention. A 21st century renaissance where empathy plays a significant role in creating context and developing understanding. This new era requires different keys to success. One important key: to be able to see the big picture and then make those visions possible. It also needs connection, and accountability. Visions and strategies, goals and solutions are no longer only supported by facts, but also by emotion and context. Solutions are crafted with honesty, creativity and a quest for social justice. The ability to experience different perspectives is paramount to forward progress.
This is a powerful perspective change; it suggests the importance of ‘meaning and connection’ beyond the bottom line or even one’s salary. It drives the need to understand the true meaning of contribution and finds respect for experience over consumption. This change of context will be the main driver of how and “why” we do whatever it is we chose to do. I personally profess these theories of change because they feel right. They suggest there is something more that takes us beyond simply doing and beyond monetary gain; it improves quality of life. Recent studies support the evolution and sustainability of a “Conceptual Age”. The following observations should motivate all of us to pay attention to the changes and to anticipate the opportunities they bring.
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
George Bernard Shaw
A McKinsey and Company article, Redefining Capitalism, in my opinion, suggests that our parents’ version of Capitalism is under benevolent attack to ensure we learn from the past and be more thoughtful in how we define and leverage future progress. Eric Beinhocker and Nick Hanauer beautifully articulate that ‘capitalism’s essential role is no longer allocation – it is creation’. The solutions that will solve for human problems will define success and prosperity in the new capitalism.
This is Capitalism 2.0: evidence of the changing perspective and a general growing mistrust of current processes are described to support the argument that, in the new world, capitalism will change. New indicators being used in emerging markets and across key global organizations that may seem innocuous are anything but. They are clear signals of the effects of this enlightened perspective. The Human Development Index, established by the United Nations and a Gross National Happiness indicator developed by the country of Bhutan are harbingers of change. It is time to start valuing quality of life versus quantity. The new capitalism embraces “Schumpterian Waste”, accepting uncertainty and allowing failure in the hopes of creating the innovative cultures necessary to support progress across the most relevant human needs. This perspective may be perceived as controversial since the prevalent processes of a market society are not disappearing anytime soon – if they ever will. But why should anyone care?
The sustainability and eventual evolution of the claim that Capitalism is changing, is fully supported by the fact that the current ideologies and theories correlate succinctly with the millennial mindset. Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce in just over a decade. As their footprint evolves, a very specific perspective will be necessary to attract this new generation. Millennials have experienced the world in a very different way than any of the previous generations. They grew up connected, in an abundant world and have been subjected to an enormous amount of data that has shaped their vision and their perspective. The fact is they will want more… the reality is they don’t want more of the same.
In January, Deloitte released their Millennial Survey that confidently claimed this new generation had “big demands and high expectations”. Those expectations are focused on more meaning in their experiences and more social responsibility and accountability within their outputs. This seems more important than salaries and the need to work in a cool office space – although those are still important. They crave and expect more access, opportunity, relevance and accountability. They expect that same social responsibility and societal relevance from the people they work for, and the missions they support. That is if they chose to work for someone – 70% of Millennials see themselves as being more likely to be self-employed. Millennials expect more from government and social institutions to solve problems creatively and in some cases lead the way. They understand the key issues of this word and demand focus on those areas from not only their employers, but from themselves.
“Mindless habitual behavior is the enemy of innovation.”
Rosabeth Moss Kanter
They expect a supportive and innovative culture to be the baseline. They are not spoiled; they are educated and aware, involved and in tune with whom they expect to be. They expect to be part of the solution. They expect a seat at the table and they expect to solve old and new problems through innovation. They will not settle with languishing in a stagnant corporate environment – they want quality, not quantity.
Millennials will support Capitalism 2.0 and will value solutions to human problems over irrational materialism. Add that to the fact that the “Conceptual Age” is real, we need to embrace the new perspective beyond empirical facts and bottom lines. The Millennials will relate economic growth to improving the quality of life for all, not just the 1%. It all begins to make sense. Old models and assumptions will not work with this new generation. I would even argue that as Gen X gets older; our perspectives are also changing and in fact, match those of the Millennials – that’s for another discussion.
In the meantime, as leaders, our challenge is ensuring our visions and strategies are sincere and focused on the “right” things while supporting society’s needs for solutions to real human problems. Our approach must be executed through innovative cultures that are aimed at thriving not simply surviving. It is those thoughtful, mindful strategies that will entice the growing army of Millennials, to join our missions and support the growth we envision. You can choose to ignore the coming change and stay stranded in the same old, or you can set your vision and plan to make a difference with the support of the coming generation that will be delivering that vision for the greater benefit of all.
 A Whole New Mind – Daniel Pink