Millennials and the New Data Mind-Set

Examining our perceptions about youth, work, and data management.

Let’s face it: As a group, Millennials don’t have the best of reputations, at least among many old-school cognoscenti. They’re always texting. They tweet too much and don’t read proper books. And we older folks believe that their collective dismissal of privacy will come back to bite them in the rear when they look for corporate jobs.

Or so the thinking goes.

To be sure, you can probably name many twenty-somethings who fit the build above. Yet, all of that time in front of screens (phones, computers, and televisions) has made many of them pretty tech- and data-savvy. As such, many are taking a different, data-oriented approach to their jobs that often challenges conventional wisdom.

Shattering the Myth of the Millennial Slacker

I was speaking with a few employees at Delivering Happiness, a company that, according to its website, “exist[s] to help people, organizations, and businesses apply the different frameworks of happiness to their lives.”

You’re probably thinking that DH doesn’t exactly sound like a data-driven company, right? Images of employees sitting around talking about existential matters probably spring to your mind. Maybe they’re reading Nietzsche or having prolonged philosophical debates.

Well, you’d be wrong. It turns out the company is rooted in testing and data analysis. One employee in particular astounded me with her knowledge of Google Analytics, A/B testing, and data in general–and she worked in the marketing department couldn’t have been 25 years old! In fact, during the course of our conversation, yours truly came across as a bit old school, particularly when I lamented the fact that I could not easily gauge the effectiveness of some of my own marketing moves.

The intelligent use of data doesn’t obviate the need for judgment.

I come across my fair share of organizations and people who refuse to believe that data can benefit them. Generally speaking, what exactly are they lacking?

  • The data? No.
  • The tools. No.
  • The need? No.
  • The mind-set? Bingo.

Simon Says

The number and cost of analytical tools today astound me. In the 1990s, only large organizations could afford these type of technologies. Today, that’s simply not true. Both mid-market firms as well as small companies (like those profiled in The New Small) are gleaning remarkable insights into their businesses through powerful, low-cost applications and systems.

On a different level, the intelligent use of data doesn’t obviate the need for judgment. Nor does uncertainly suddenly vanish. However, as I’ve seen throughout my consulting career, it certainly takes many traditional employees and people out of their comfort zones. So, I understand the reluctance of people in their 30s and beyond to embrace new ways of doing things–and data in particular. Maybe some of them were never good at math and thought they could avoid numbers by working in HR, marketing, or some other “soft” side of the business.

Think again.

When companies founded with the goal of increasing employee happiness make most of their decisions based on data, what’s your excuse for not doing so?

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What say you?


I wrote this post as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program. It provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise, and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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