Generation Y is a different generation than those that have come before in many ways. Most notably, the advent of the Internet and our ability to communicate with each other globally like never before has given us the ability to connect to each other like no prior generation.
I define folks in Gen Y as those born between 1980 and 2000. I was born in 1984. Today in 2013, the oldest of us are about 33 and the youngest of us are about 13. Over the next 40 years, we truly have an opportunity to lead the world and make a huge positive impact on the world.
Let’s first look at what’s different about Gen Y, about this millennial or Internet generation.
1. We Are Deeply Aware of Social Issues
First, we are deeply aware of social issues. We are able to access information from around the world like never before. We’ve seen since the mid-1990s that we’ve had access to the Internet really from the beginning of our life, or at least from our early teenage years. We’re aware of what’s going on in the world and more globally connected.
2. We Understand the Importance of Sustainability
The second thing is we understand the importance of a sustainable world, a world in which we can leave a tremendously positive future for our grandchildren.
3. We See Business & Entrepreneurship as a Good Thing
We see business and entrepreneurship not of tools of evil capitalists, but as tools to make scalable, positive change in the world. We see conscious capitalism as a change in capitalism that doesn’t look at creating short-term quarter-by-quarter profit results as its primary objective, but rather thinks about creating value for society. And when you create value for society, for customers, for employees, for community, you actually end up creating lost of shareholder value. We see that social responsibility and economic returns actually are positively correlated rather than tradeoffs.
4. We’re Used to a Faster Pace of Change
Fourth, we’re used to a faster pace of change. We have so much information coming at us through so many different media outlets all at the same time that we can multi-task quite well and we’re often impatient with the status quo because we believe we can do anything. We believe we can truly change the world, and together we have the ability, resources, and technologies to make change faster than ever before. That brings with it an important requirement that we take time to talk to each other, to connect and make sure we make the right changes, but we’re used to a faster pace of change. We don’t like bureaucracy.
5. We’re Globally Connected Like Never Before
Next, we’re globally connected through technology like never before. I can now jump on Facebook and talk with a friend in Syria or Egypt, or even a friend in South Korea or Iran. We have the ability to connect with people globally, regardless of where they are. The reality is young people are the same everywhere. Human beings just want the same thing, and that’s to live a good life with opportunity and be able to take care of our families and create a better world for our kids than the world that we lived in. We all share the same goals. And really, at the end of the day, we’re all humans. As we realize that by becoming globally connected and creating a sense of human identity, we believe we’ll be able to create a more peaceful, stronger, more secure world for all.
6. We Have the Tools to Topple Corrupt Leaders
We also now have the tools to topple corrupt leaders and hold bad leaders accountable. We’ve seen with the Arab Spring in 2011 the leaders of countries like Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya all be overthrown just within about a six or nine-month period. We are seeing that today with tools like Twitter, Facebook, and Google that we can connect, communicate, interact, and organize like never before. To me, that is exciting because one of the great principles our country in the United States was founded on was people should not be afraid of their governments; governments should be afraid of their people. And that people coming together should be able to get rid of a corrupt and bad government.
Gen Y’s Biggest Challenge
Our biggest challenge, and simultaneously our biggest opportunity, is creating once and for all an environmentally sustainable world in which we’re using renewables, in which everyone all around the world regardless of where you’re from or to whom you were born or what your last name is has access to the basic needs of food, water, shelter, education, medicine, electricity, and the cloud. The great news is our generation cares and are deeply passionate. We give a damn and we have the tech tools. We can innovate like hell and we’re highly competent. I’m excited about what the leaders of our generation will create in the decades ahead. I hope to be part of it.