Designing A Millennial-Run Business

As the president of a company that is nearly 80 years old and full of young people, I feel the need to continually evolve and change. So what will lead companies to success in the future? If you ask a Millennial, it's new ideas, integrated organizations, collaboration, innovation and an increased passion for change.

A recent study titled "Millennial Inc" (, took a look at what a company would look like if Millennials were in charge. Two groups of Millennials built virtual companies to reveal Millennials' main approaches for creating a successful business. While some of what the study found wasn't necessarily surprising, it did take an interesting approach to understanding this generation better.

According to the study, if Millennials ruled your organization, it would be collaboratively led. Management would be about shared responsibility. There would be no CEO but rather a team with each member focused on an area of responsibility. And while expertise is valued within areas of responsibility, they would also want to weigh in on other areas of the company.



They value diverse thinkers to the point that 70% would prefer to make decisions by consensus (when amongst their peers). This almost sounds like the matrix organizations popularized in the '90s where information was shared across task boundaries without sacrificing specialization and nobody had just one boss.

In terms of environment, keeping up the pace of change is really important. Because they crave stimulation, the average 26 year old has changed jobs seven times since he was 18. If a Millennial ruled your company, she would create a place that is challenging and innovative. The study found that keeping Millennials intellectually stimulated and challenged were keys to their job satisfaction. They also value innovation and ranked Google and Microsoft at the top for companies they would most like to work for. They look for innovation in product and approach.

And finally, a company run by Millennials would have an idea-driven culture. It's a culture where authority is earned and not assigned based on title or experience. As we saw in the last election, Millennials aren't impressed with the experience of "been there, done that" but are rather attracted to ideas that they see as moving forward.

This isn't surprising given that they live in a world where the Internet has enabled anyone and everyone to put ideas forward. Individuals with great ideas are successful and gain respect. The same would apply to a business run by Millennials.

Millennials would also require each employee of the company to start on the ground level and work his way up. Those that excelled would move up quickly and be paid accordingly. This would ensure upper-level executives would understand the front line of the business. Interestingly, this is a very old model on which many companies today are built. For example, for many years Nordstrom only promoted people from within into management and most people started on the retail floor in some capacity.

So what can you do with all this?

  • If you aren't already doing so, you can look for ways to enable collaboration across your organization. Let go of the corporate politics behind long-established structures and create venues for collaboration and surfacing new ideas from within the organization.
  • Continually find ways to challenge your team with new opportunities for growth. And reward those who rise to the occasion. Not doing so will only create apathy and the Millennials with the best ideas will go elsewhere.
  • Value ideas over experience. A company that rewards new ideas over keeping the status quo will be a place that continues to elicit the best from this generation.
6 comments about "Designing A Millennial-Run Business".
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  1. Emma Pitterle from Shine, September 3, 2010 at 11:14 a.m.

    I would like to point out one inherent flaw in the study that leaps out at me from your summary (didn't read the study, perhaps they've corrected for this): I changed jobs yearly in college and know many peers who did the same for class schedule and convenience of location. Would that count as four jobs? If so, the number of jobs would be unfairly inflated.

  2. John Maher, September 3, 2010 at 11:17 a.m.

    Good God, give me strength... Amazingly banal profundities from a balding man with a soul patch.

  3. Jonathan Hall from American Pop, September 3, 2010 at 12:26 p.m.

    Whoa! Rough crowd here. As you could imagine, a social media agency would have a younger work force. I find the younger Millennials (22-24) to be amazing to work with. Very smart, not as sarcastic and caustic as their predecessors, work smart and hard, are socially minded and seem to know who Bob Dylan and The Beatles are.

  4. Brandon Evans, September 3, 2010 at 12:37 p.m.

    Mike, glad you enjoyed our study. Great write up and thoughts.

  5. Daniel Schwartz, September 7, 2010 at 9:51 a.m.

    This article is spot on. Our company is started by and run by Millennials. We pretty much run in the exact fashion this article illustrates. We find that it is what helps make us and our clients successful. Check us out at

  6. Harris White, September 11, 2010 at 11:49 a.m.

    The study does throw some questions to the management of every possible organization. One can’t stop to wonder what impact the millennial’s will have on the work environment with their knowledge of technology & the environment of globalization in which they have grown up. In fact i came across this post “ The Millennial Inquirer, Patterns from IDEO” ( that summarizes the millennial generation. Another impressive thought I came across is the thought by the author of this slide deck ( Vineet Nayar, CEO HCL Technologies) . His thoughts suggest that he is willing to adapt millennial thinking into the organization DNA.

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