• November 2011

Glimpse the Future With "Millennial Momentum"

By Chris Carbone
Futurist, Director
Innovaro, Inc.

It’s easy to find books and articles that tell you that we’re headed down the wrong path … that we’re going to be less healthy, more divided, less secure, and generally less well off as a nation in the future.

But as Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais show in Millennial Momentum: How a New Generation Is Remaking America, there are other ways to view the future of the United States and its social, economic, and political dynamics.

A Look at the Next Great Generation

I had the pleasure of featuring Winograd and Hais on a webinar I hosted this past summer, which explored the key trends and factors influencing American family life in the next decade. We discussed demographic and economic shifts, changing consumer values, new patterns of technology usage, and other trends.

Winograd and Hais have become known as keen observers of the Millennial generation ever since their prescient 2008 book, Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube, & the Future of American Politics, foretold the influence that Millennials would have on the election of President Barack Obama.

On the webinar, the authors generously shared their insights on how Millennials are going to impact American family life, but in revisiting “Millennial Momentum” recently, I was reminded of just how much it has to offer.

Why I like this book.

“Millennial Momentum” has several attributes that make it worth the time of anyone who is thinking about the future of the United States, its social and political dynamics, and its consumer lifestyles.

First, Hais and Winograd do a great job setting the context for today. Like all good futurists, they have a real sense of history, and they use it to help readers understand where we may be headed in the future.

For example, the first chapter of the book is peppered with a variety of historical references—from the Battle of Yorktown to the 1936 reelection of FDR—to help explain generational theory and the Millennials’ place in it.

Second, they’ve got data and they’re not afraid to use it. … At its heart, this is a research book, not a drawn-out opinion piece. It’s based on data made available to the authors by the Pew Research Center, and Frank N. Magid Associates, as well as their observations of and interactions with members of the Millennial community (for example: TheNextGreatGeneration.com).

Finally, the book’s forecasts cover a lot of ground. There’s something for everyone in this book, including optimism and hope, which can be hard to find in an analysis of America’s future today.

What you’ll learn:

Here is an overview of some of the kinds of insights you can expect from “Millennial Momentum.”

  • Generations matter. The authors give a mini-lesson in generational theory and explain how our history—and future—is influenced by the country’s generational cycle, which lasts about 80 years, and cycles through four generational “types”—Idealist, Reactive, Civic, and Adaptive.
  • Millennials are on the rise. The United States is now entering a period when “an ideologically driven, highly divided idealist generation [Baby Boomers] … is facing a civic generation [Millennials].” Civic generations tend to be optimistic; they emphasize tackling societal challenges and building institutions. The last civic generation was the GI Generation (born 1901-1924), which defeated Fascism and then set its sights on rebuilding institutions, economies, and their lives after World War II.
  • Just follow the numbers. There are 95 million Americans in the Millennial generation, and by 2020 virtually all of them will be of voting age. They will make their voices heard.
  • Crowd-sourced government? Even though Winograd and Hais note that Millennials are generally more aligned with the Democratic party, they make it clear that the Millennials’ desire to solve societal challenges and collaborate does not favor the status quo. They will push for increased group participation and transparency, suggesting that both parties will be into new territory in coming years.
  • Millennials will remake the workplace. Millennials will push for more trusting management styles and processes that “embrace the bottom-up values of Millennials.” They’ll want work to be more than a paycheck and make a difference: Winograd and Hais note that 85 percent of Millennials want their work to have a positive impact on the world, the same level expressed by Boomers, and significantly higher than Gen Xers.
  • Millennial families and home life. The personal choices of millions of Millennials—whom they marry, where they live, how they raise their kids—will reshape the American family in coming decades. Winograd and Hais suggest a preference for suburban living, multigenerational households, and incredible diversity in family makeup based on Millennials’ tolerance and live-and-let-live attitudes.
  • Entertainment, Millennial style. The entertainment and cultural contributions of the Millennials will reflect their “unique blend of teamwork, optimism, and individual initiative,” and contrast sharply the self-above-team attitudes of Gen X stars. Winograd and Hais even offer insight into the move of LeBron James from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat by describing it in its generational context.

The forecast for the Millennials isn’t all roses.

The authors don’t suggest that we’ll always have smooth sailing, but Winograd and Hais are clear that there are serious choices to make about the future.

In fact, they argue that whichever “path the United States ultimately takes will be determined by the Millennial generation’s willingness to engage in a vast civic endeavor to remake America and its institutions and the willingness of the rest of the country to follow its lead.”

So it looks like it’s up to all of us as to whether the momentum of the Millennial generation carries us toward a better future.

For More Information

Recently, Winograd and Hais were interviewed by Judy Woodruff on “PBS NewsHour,” which gives a useful introduction to the book. Click here for their Book Conversation.

Of course, there’s much more in “Millennial Momentum” than can be fit on these pages, so click here to visit the author’s website, millennialmomentum.com.

Then, click here to buy the book, and find out how a new generation is remaking America.


About Chris Carbone

Chris Carbone has worked in trend and foresight consulting for more than a decade, serving clients from Fortune 500 corporation and foreign and US government agencies. During this time he has researched and authored dozens of reports and scenarios on wide-ranging topics … from the future of leisure and play, to the future of urban mobility, to emerging consumer lifestyles in China.

Carbone has been quoted in numerous publications including The Miami Herald, The Washington Post Express, and Fast Company, and appeared on the CBS Early Show. He currently oversees Innovaro’s two multi-client research projects—Global Lifestyles and Technology Foresight—and contributes to the firm’s custom engagements. Carbone has an MBA from Johns Hopkins University with a concentration in Marketing, and received his undergraduate degree in History from Gettysburg College.

About Innovaro—Insights & Research

Innovaro Insight & Research helps organizations understand and shape the future of their business. Through its syndicated and custom research services, it provides actionable business insights to help clients uncover emerging consumer needs and behaviors, anticipate and seize growth opportunities, define critical emerging issues shaping the future of their industry, mitigate risk, and enrich decision-making. For more information visit www.innovaro.com.

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