Last week the folks at Achieve and the Case Foundation put on another stellar virtual conference around engaging millennials in nonprofits, social change and more. There were the expected buzz words, info-nuggets and sound bytes but also an abundance of new intelligence shed by rising stars in social innovation. The sessions/speakers were fantastic (all of which attendees and new registrants can still access) and the discussion in chat rooms and on Twitter was vibrant.
There was one session that I took more from than any other, though I don’t think it’s what he intended. So as try and not to take things out of context, in Scott Gerber’s opening keynote, he was charged with walking up (and firing up) the audience. Mission accomplished. Scott’s a dynamic person with a passionate delivery but overall he took, what I felt, was an abrasive approach to advocating on behalf of millennials and their engagement in organizations – to the point of dismissing any thought to the contrary. In the days since, he’s been (mis)pegged as anti-millennial, when in reality, he’s an incredible hyper-advocate. I love what he stands for but lost it in the delivery.
I’m not going to give you a line by line synopsis or rebuttal. However, in speaking about those individuals, companies and organizations who may have trouble understanding, engaging or connecting with millennials, he essentially said ‘screw ’em’. ‘Those companies and organizations will die’. “I’m tired of ancient board members, kick ’em off”.
My biggest take-away from #MCON2012 is that the bull-in-a-china-shop mentality and language doesn’t work if you truly want to make lasting change.
It’s something that I’ve known for a while but I, admittedly, haven’t practiced terribly well. Three years ago in a conference session around generational workplace there was literally almost a fight between generations. Groups of experienced professionals were yelling “put your time in like the rest of us” while millennials heckled back “get out of the way so we can get some work done”. It was appauling but it put the passion into words. No, I didn’t join in but came close. What it really represented was an incredible fear – from both sides. A fear of failure. A fear of not having control. A fear of being wrong. A fear of unemployment in a horrible economy. A fear of being ‘to old’ to have value. A fear of being not old enough to provide any. A fear that (as Scott eloquently stated) “the promise of work hard, do well in school and you’ll get a good paying job is broken”.
I think it’s those fears and thoughts that arise when any person – of any generation – speaks their mind or holds their position in discussion a bit to long. When it’s no longer about the correct answer but about winning the argument.
What’s the correct answer? I’ll always believe it’s open-minded dialogue. It’s wearing your age or generational label like a badge of honor but understanding the value (and passionate belief in it) that other ages and generations bring too. It’s using welcoming language and avoiding divisiveness. Seeking true cross-generational understanding to move a culture towards openness and greatness.
At the end of the day, you get more flies with honey rather than with vinegar, right?
Funny. My grandma taught me that.