Leading On

Millennials Tout Business Savvy in New Book

“The XYZ Factor” describes how this generation’s business approaches can work for all ages.

A great deal has been written about how to manage millennials (loosely defined as those born in the 1980s and 1990s), but we haven’t heard much from the generation itself about how it plans to lead. “The XYZ Factor: The DoSomething.org Guide to Creating a Culture of Impact” (BenBella Books Inc., 2015), written by employees and executives of the DoSomething.org nonprofit, aims to change that.

This book starts off in familiar territory, explaining how to “get” millennials. They value choice. They are impatient for change. They’re restless and nomadic. They seek ongoing feedback. But the meat comes in the following chapters, each written by an expert within DoSomething.org, a global organization that urges social change, volunteerism and good works through social media.

Head of User Experience Julie Lorch writes about creating a productive workspace: In the fun-to-read first chapter, she compares an office to summer camp. Later in the book, Marketing Manager Chloe Lee and her colleague Colleen Wormsley expound on zero-dollar marketing. Other chapters discuss how to form meaningful relationships with other organizations and how to make interns true assets for your staff.A chapter on data and measurement, written by the organization’s chief data officer, Jeff Bladt, describes the ways in which XYZ organizations — organizations that adopt the mind-set of the millennial generation — make informed decisions:

  • Balance data and intuition. Effective decision-making begins with the question “What does the data say?” but overreliance on data can stifle innovation. Data, Bladt points out, cannot tell you what to measure or help you identify your end goals.
  • Define key metrics. Data can be vast, but metrics — those measurements a company decides are important — are focused. They should be quick and cost-effective to measure, and they must be actionable. Most importantly, metrics should correlate closely with a company’s goals. Bladt says that while so-called vanity metrics, such as website visitors and Facebook “likes,” are easily measurable and actionable to a degree, their influence on, say, sales, is indirect. A better metric would be the return on investment (ROI) of a particular marketing campaign.
  • Humanize data. Data, Bladt argues, works best when it creates a clear story about human behavior. Take the urgent and ever-present questions about who a company’s best customers are and how to get more of them. Bladt walks through an illuminating example from DoSomething.org. Substituting members for customers, it’s an example any company could follow: Isolate the best customers geographically and/or demographically, see which campaigns they respond to, and tailor future campaigns to reach similar prospects.

The authors of “The XYZ Factor” open by stating it is not a manifesto but a business book. This is somewhat disingenuous, as it is clearly both — a manifesto because it is based on the assumption that the characteristics of the newest generation of leaders will shape leadership in the future and a business book because it does an excellent job of explaining why that’s a very good thing.

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