Why would you want to learn to think like a Millennial? Perhaps because you don’t understand your children? Perhaps because you are a teacher and you have no idea to connect with them, discipline them, or inspire them to want to know more? Perhaps because you have just employed one, or are just about to and you are wondering why they seem different to you. The fact is, there are lots of them (they are the biggest population group in the world in terms of numbers), they are all around us and they are powerful young people.

Irrationally predictable – that is how I would describe what I know of Generation Y. They are such an interesting generation. On one level they are more homogenous than any other generation in South Africa (across the socio-economic divides) because they have all been born ‘free’ into the new South Africa. They have also all grown up being exposed to globalization, technology (to varying degrees), mobile telephones and rapid change. What they have in common is their ability to question what they don’t see the point of, their interest in saving the world (either at large or immediately around them), their ability to be informed, their willingness to be expressive, their open-mindedness and their honesty when giving feedback. But, as we know, they are a generation who have grown up with an awful lot of choice and so there is a lot of diversity amongst them. I think society allows its members to live how they want to live, like never before; and notwithstanding  the restrictions of one’s social, cultural, economic and environmental circumstances, Generation Y in South Africa are able to live in a manner that they wish, like no generation before them.

I always use the example of religion. This generation choose whether or not they are going to do religion, and then they choose which religion that is going to be and for how long. This is not to say they are not spiritual, because they can be, but as with everything else, they won’t do it unless they understand why they are doing it.

So, how to think like them:

  1. Quickly. They have always lived in a fast-paced world where they are exposed to information in multiple formats in bite-sized pieces.
  2. Creatively. They are the digital natives. They are surrounded by technology all the time and they know how to use it better than you. If you really want to get their attention, don’t always rely on technology to do so. Providing them with a kinaesthetic experience that they can emotionally connect to can make more of an impact.
  3. Transparently. They have always had access to information. They have therefore always been informed. If you are not open with them, they will perceive this as dishonest, which they hate.
  4. Optimistically. They are the generation that know the world is in financial and environmental crisis. They also know they are the generation that will have to fix it. They welcome this responsibility and as a result have a relatively charitable and civic minded outlook. They were brought up by the Power Rangers telling them that the power of team-work could overcome all. Allow them to partake in solution finding.
  5. Inclusively.  They have been asked to help fix the DVD player since they were five. They have grown up in a school system which favoured group work and recognised collaboration. Furthermore they have been asked for their opinion on almost everything since grade one, and now you are making decisions without them? Big mistake.
  6. Equality. Generation Y have amazing perspective. They might be young, but they can have profound insight and they are not afraid to share it.
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