Millennial City: How a new generation can save the future, Ch. 9-1

November 24th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Cities | Comments Off

This book, Millennial City is being released first as a serial blog. The book is a collaboration with Dennis Walsh and this blog is Part 1 of Chapter 9. We will publish Millennial City as an e-book when the serialization is completed. The book grew out of conversations that Dennis and I have had about the future of cities, sustainability, and the millennial generation. We think that these three domains, if you will, are coming together to create a new future – and just in time we hope.

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CHAPTER Nine – Part 1
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

When it comes to building, just like our lives, cities are built brick by brick. Some days are worse than others. Some days we don’t do a whole lot of building. That’s when you ask yourself, Why? Why is it that sometimes plans just don’t seem to come together very well. And yet, here we are telling you, without a doubt, things are going to get a whole lot better.

Don’t listen to those negative news reports. There’s a new sound in the air. Something good is coming. You have a purpose and a destiny to make a difference in the world. That’s radical. That’s extreme. But radical gets results.

If cities are going to compete with one another, it will take money and talent: your talent. There is a war for talent going on in every major city around the world. Today, the average age in China and India is mid-twenties. Many African nations are even younger and despite their desperate situations eager to join the global economy. We are a reflection of the globe. The earth’s population is growing younger (while it is also growing much older), and they desperately need leadership. There are 67 countries where a “youth bulge” exists. (That is, populations where more than 30% are young adults or kids.) 60 of those countries are presently in civil war or are experiencing mass killings. Of the 27 biggest “youth bulge” nations, 13 are Muslim. Those kids will find expression, one way or another.

Global organizations think in terms of the physical locations that will be the most competitive and cost-effective. Some of the fastest growing cities are producing highly skilled workers, increasing the attractiveness of relocation. Talent attracts capital far more than capital attracts talent. More people and jobs create wealth for cities. The best economic development strategy may be to attract smart people and get out of their way. Cities at the top must find new ways to meet the future demands of a talent-driven market. There is a constant struggle to retain local management talent in emerging markets. Global business models need really good people to be able to manage around that complexity.

The high demand for the limited number of internationally capable local talent leads to a high turnover rate as they are lured away by competitors. The consequence is a growing turnover rate. The very best companies are obsessed with talent. They recruit endlessly. Entire industries like social media, gaming, and oil/minerals are in on the war. New hires are getting extreme signing bonuses. It’s not so much a problem too few people available. The war for talent is a skills shortage, not a people shortage. For the first time in history, governments and businesses are working together to remove some of the barriers to mobility around the world. But it’s not all happening beyond North America. Its happening in our backyard.

Until recently, “competitiveness” was outside a mayor’s domain. The factors defining it were decided at the national level. But today with businesses formulating growth strategies around urban markets, cities cannot afford to leave their futures to national governments. Denver, the Mile High City, has made itself attractive to mobile young talent. Graduates are flocking to Brooklyn. It’s where some of the most exciting things in the world are happening and being cool counts. This is your opportunity.

The demographic shift from the baby boom generation and GenX to the Millennials can be either frightening or exhilarating but it can’t be ignored. The implications are profound. Remember what we said about the 1960s. The word revolution catches the spirit of what lies ahead. The biggest threat arrives in the coming decades when many organizations may face operational discontinuity because they cannot transfer knowledge to a stable workforce. Companies have a choice. They can let change happen to them, or they can take a sustainable approach and manage change by designing engaging work experiences.

Ask and you will receive. By weight of numbers, your generation will have a big say in how companies, workplaces, organizations work: flexible work routine, autonomy, opportunity to experiment and explore. In five years, almost half of US workers will work virtually at least some of the time. This will change everything. Workspaces will be social, mobile, visual and offer a wealth of opportunities your chosen field. It doesn’t get any better than that.
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[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]