Millennials are going to make major shifts in corporations over the next decade and most people aren’t ready for the amount of change that’s coming. By 2025, millennials will account for 75% of the global workforce and by next year, they will account for 36% of the American workforce.
At some companies like Accenture and Ernst & Young, they already account for over two thirds of the entire employee base.
Relative to boomers and Gen X’ers, millennials have a different view of how work should get done and come into the workforce with a different set of expectations. We are already see changes happening as companies try to prepare for this emerging demographic and it’s just the beginning.
One of the main drivers of Big Bang Disruptors is the constantly improving price and performance of information technologies. For years, computer processors, memory, and communications capacity have experienced regular, even predictable, growth that is nearly exponential. Everything gets twice as fast and half as expensive every few years.
We all know what a comfort zone is: it’s a place where we feel secure and where risk is contained. It’s also a place where our performance is not severely tested.
In business, the comfort zone has never been a good place to be. Companies that get too comfortable risk becoming irrelevant, obsolete—and extinct. This is particularly true in today’s business world where the forces of globalization; new social, mobile, analytical and cloud technologies; and fast-changing customer, employee and partner demands encroach on our comfort zones daily—making discomfort the new comfort zone.
Business leaders need to recognize that this perpetual assault on their comfort zone can create opportunities—to challenge established practices and win against complacent competition. Forget the common advice to “extend your comfort zone” (which always sounds to me like merely dipping a toe in the water). Winning enterprises must seek to perpetually live in their “discomfort zone”—by continually questioning conventional wisdom, reinventing work, and welcoming disruptive innovation.
My own experience taught me to value the discomfort zone early on. Our family accompanied my father, an officer in India’s Foreign Service, to Kenya, Ethiopia, Zaire, New York City, Trinidad, Hong Kong and Panama. Our parents almost always enrolled us in local schools, not the international schools that diplomats often prefer. Being immersed in a new country, language and culture every three years, one learns to be flexible, to challenge assumptions, and embrace new ideas and surroundings. We also discovered a lot of fun and excitement in the times of greatest discomfort—opportunities to learn, make new friends and explore new lands and distant places.
So, how do organizations and individuals function in a perpetual discomfort zone? I believe the answer is to think fast and think forward. Thinking fast means abandoning prolonged strategic debates in favor of rapid, real-time, data-driven decisions. Don’t become mired in discomfort, be agile in responding to it. Thinking forward means creating new business models, processes and workplace environments that enable us to ride the next wave of innovation—intentionally establishing new areas of discomfort.
How come that upper middle managers and entrepreneurs look at things in different ways? The answer lies partly in their personality types. It is known that certain personality types work better in certain situations than other.