I’m looking at the top 5 songs this week and three of them “feature” someone in addition to the main artists. The mashup phenomenon isn’t new but it’s no longer a novelty, it’s now the norm. The audience wants and expects more. But that has always been the case. What has changed?
One underlying driver has to be that artists, young artists, are more willing to collaborate. This collaboration trend has implications for the talent in your business and your business itself. We are bombarded everyday about how to sell to Millennials, but let’s talk about them first as workers and then as business model shapers .
CHANGING OF THE GUARD
In Q1 2015, “Millennials (adults aged 18 – 34) surpassed Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce, according to new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data…It’s worth noting that the Millennial population as a whole (not just its workforce) is already projected to surpass that of Baby Boomers this year as the nation’s largest living generation, according to the Census Bureau.” Those Millennials who are singing their hearts out and topping Billboard’s charts are also an important and growing part of your talent pool.
DIALOGUE TRUMPS TITLES
Millennials have been educated in a more collaborative way: in study groups and teams and also across disciplines. Remember, many of them are still in college but those in the workforce now have between five and ten years of experience. They share with co-workers more readily and they see connections across technology and departments more easily. This has caused friction in many organizations because these characteristics often disregard the organizational levels and layers of corporate America. Organizations initially saw this as youthful exuberance that would eventually fall in line with organizational bureaucracy. But it is a different work style not a lack of discipline. Make sure your workforce knows you are interested in results not in how they get the results.
NON-LINEAR PROBLEM SOLVING
Instead of conforming Millennials to more regimented behavior, we should encourage their instinctive collaboration in order to achieve results. For years, Strategos has helped clients to build dialogue and open communication channels. Often we have to tear down layers of resistance before building up. While this is still the norm, we are seeing some clients who enjoy a more open, collaborative starting point. Recognize and encourage collaborative problem solving when you see it in your organization. It won’t be easy because it will feel like you are relinquishing control to chaos. But the organization should be interested in the “What” (the solution) and not so much in the “How”(how we get there).
To reinforce the What over the How, make sure to recognize and reward for achievements by teams not individuals. To go even further, recognize and reward for attempts, even if the initial goal wasn’t achieved, as long as the team helps the organization learn something valuable. We all say we want a smarter workforce so let’s reward for learning. And as a leader in your organization, make use of that learning as you move forward. These are the actions that will motivate your Millennial workforce.
At Strategos we have always used cross-function, multi-level client core teams and workshops to reach more voices. We are thrilled to see our core teams involving their internal networks more. The word spreads quickly – to the extent that people are asking to be invited to workshops. And our leadership workshops are expanding from a handful of senior executives to a full set of stakeholders and the core team who are diving into frank discussions about issues and opportunities for their organizations to reshape their business models.
Although they are just outside of the Millennial age category, the band Linkin Park exemplifies an openness to look beyond traditional business models in an industry. While we talk about “born digital” a better description is “born connected”. Linkin Park formed Machine Shop in 1999 to connect directly with their fan base and then expanded to offer its marketing services to others. Machine Shop is now a wholly owned innovation company focused on seeking out non-traditional business partnerships. While bands and artists have always tried to leverage the power of their brands through affiliations and endorsements, today’s artists are pursuing whole new business models like Beats by Dr. Dre which was acquired by Apple in 2014. Expect to see more business model mashups.
SXSW is now a well established platform for multi-brand, cross industry events. The annual festival is a maship itself with music, film, interactive and fashion platforms. This year Nieman Marcus partnered with Atlantic Records to mashup luxury retail, musical talent and e-commerce in order to connect with young female consumers. The South by Southwest Interactive Festival also featured Swarovski and Misfit’s collaboration to produce activity tracking jewelry. And McDonald’s hosted a pitch contest to source innovative ideas.
The term “mashup” is also gaining usage to refer to the juxtaposition of industry leaders and startups as they come together through incubators and accelerators to develop new ideas and businesses. The partnership of GE & Quirky is a good example. Strategos helps foster business mashups on a client by client basis and also through our involvement with our friends at Management Innovation eXchange through their event http://mixmashup.org/mashup/about . All this is to say that mashups aren’t just for pop music. Be open to mashups in your organization and let that energy and learning lead you to new areas of growth.