In business, there’s something called the Millennial Advantage.
I don’t know if anyone has coined “Millennial Advantage” yet — but consider it coined now.
What you need to know about the Millennial Advantage is that it’s not limited to millennials — anyone can possess it.
In fact, a lot of professionals catch the Millennial-Advantage bug late in their careers and it often backfires (we’ll talk about this later).
The Millennial Advantage is the ability to see problems with fresh eyes.
“A young entrepreneur can look at older industries with a fresh eye,” says Heather Marie, founder of 72Lux, a company that integrates e-commerce technology into clients’ websites, in City Hall Park, NYC.
This makes sense, sort of.
I’m sure most of my friends can tell you the latest social media platform they’re using and if your business should be using it too (Snapchat: yes and yes). This advantage is inherent. Millennials grew up using social media.
But how does someone in their 40s, who’s been working in one industry for the past 20 years, catch the Millennial-Advantage bug?
They simply change industries. Companies have been doing this for years. Large corporations will hire outside their native industry for the sole purpose of offering a fresh perspective.
Some startup companies will even go out of their way to only hire graduates without business degrees or MBAs because they fear they will have to spend too much time and money “unlearning” these hires.
This kind of thinking is ridiculous.
This is like saying you think your brain is a bucket that, once filled up, needs to be emptied before any more knowledge can be added… Derp.
I get why this thinking exists. Have you ever had a conversation with someone in a different industry than yours and listened to their problems and immediately thought, ‘wow, I can see the holes!’ ‘I know exactly how to improve your business model.’ It’s rare that these first impressions are ever true. Just ask anyone who’s ever hired a consultant they weren’t happy with.
In reality, the holes you see are often your own ignorance, and as you study the industry, you quickly see why your fresh ideas are not so fresh. This blind hubris can be dangerous, especially when you have professionals switching industries late in their careers and taking over senior-level and executive positions.
The late Roger Ebert — the famous Chicago Sun-Times movie critic — was once asked by a reporter what he thought about fresh eyes:
“Do you think a more innocent viewpoint, not marred by technical knowledge, leads to a more ‘pure’ watching experience — the emotional elements without being distracted by technicalities?”
“The more movies you see and write about, the more you know about them. Consider baseball. The ‘innocent’ crowd member sees a bunch of guys running after a little ball while wearing funny costumes. The Cubs fan sees inevitable tragedy unfolding.”
I agree with Ebert, sort of.
I say sort of because I think there’s middle ground. There is a reason why internships and apprenticeship programs stand the test of time.
Bringing in fresh blood invigorates a business. Having fresh eyes can be advantageous but it doesn’t replace years of hard-learned experience.
The middle ground is pairing experienced workers with fresh young eyes and seeing what happens. Companies willing to take this chance will be the ones that innovate.
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