“You Are The Future.” So writes David Burstein at the beginning of his publication, ‘Fast Future: How The Millennial Generation Is Shaping Our World.” This well-worn phrase has often been repeated at graduation speeches, conventions and one-on-one conversations between embittered kids and their parents. But Burstein raises another issue. The Millennial may be the future, but he or she is also the present, and needs to take charge of that responsibility.
As Burstein defines it, the Millennial Generation is composed of individuals born between 1980 and 1994, which, due to today’s population growth, compose about 1/3 of the global population. Because of today’s interconnected society, they are more in touch than their parents’ generation and even those before them. This group must, however, attend to the issue of adapting to and coping with the changes in the world and the environment that have come about due to the impact of technology and our increasing reliance on it.
The future of work is a particularly pressing issue. The subject is already up for debate. PSFK has conducted extensive research on the matter, producing a ‘Future Of Work‘ report replete with ways for bringing the physical work space up to speed with today’s fast-paced times. Burstein acknowledged the urgent need for modifications in a recent conversation with PSFK:
We are at a very unique moment for the Millennial generation. We have almost completed a shift in values of different industries, so it is clearer and clearer what this demands. We want open, conducive environments and we want work to be more integrated with life, and with a concern for the environment.
Companies such as Grind, which Benjamin Dyett, a speaker at PSFK CONFERENCE 2013, co-founded, have already seen how the physical layout of a workspace can affect employees’ productivity and the way they communicate and spread ideas with each other.
When it comes to the actual structure of companies, it seems that greater flexibility may be needed. Training Millennials to work and direct in a way that fits in with the developing workspace may pose a challenge to senior members, as Burstein mentioned, but it is necessary for ultimate productivity. More urgent is the need to ensure that various parts of companies are in dialogue with each other and to avoid bureaucracy that might prove a hindrance. Burstein himself appears to know this from experience:
Last year we worked with Comcast on a film, and wanted to issue a press release. But it had to be approved by the legal department, and then the marketing department, and because of all this bureaucracy the press release came out after we released the film! Putting all these systems in place, supposedly so that there is no risk, and everything is signed off on, is meant to avoid problems but in fact it had caused an inability to be nimble and adapt to the situation.
These changes in the workspace and the nature of work are being much discussed, but there is also the problem of perception. As work and life become digital, it’s important to afford importance to the online world and not merely brush it off as a spin off to traditional ways of thought and presentation. As industries move in this direction, Burstein underlines that it’s important for organizations to accept this idea and remold:
Some people think that digital is not proven yet and somehow less prestigious. You have ‘digital strategists,’ but you don’t have a ‘fax machine strategist!’ That this shift hasn’t been made yet is, to me, shocking. Clearly the Internet is here to stay and large companies are still figuring out how to integrate it into their daily operations, beyond having websites and email.
Burstein’s ‘Fast Future’ and his conversation with PSFK highlight problems that the Millennial faces and emphasizes the need to combat them and move with the changes that are taking place. It is up to the generation to act on this advice.