An interesting pair of studies came out recently, one by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and the other by Deloitte - the former a study of 390 business leaders from around the world and the latter a survey of over 1,000 millennials (born after 1981) who work for Deloitte firms across the globe. Comparing the two surveys produces some interesting material worth exploring in relationship to Telosity.
One thing the results highlight is a gap in opinion about what business could and should accomplish between millennials and business leaders. Selecting from a series of terms to answer the question, “what is the purpose of business?” the most commonly chosen answer among business leaders surveyed was “profit.” Among millennials, the most selected term was “societal benefit.” To the left is a word cloud (which can be found at the link below) that maps the responses according to frequency – business leaders' answers in blue, millennials answers in green.
While significant, the expanse between these differing notions of the purpose of business is not as wide as it might first seem. As you'll notice, the responses of business leaders also include more socially sensitive terms like “society, innovation and sustainability,” showing their belief in the company’s responsibility to provide societal benefit. Similarly, responses among millennials also included terms like “profit, prosperity and efficiency,” evidencing their sensitivity to practical and fiscal concerns.
In the survey, only 35% of business leaders said that of any sector, business “will achieve the greatest impact in solving society’s biggest challenges.” In contrast, business was selected as the answer to this question by more than half of millennials (52%). The difference in confidence and expectation between the two groups could, of course be explained as simply a gap in reality, where one might suggest that the responses of those idealistic, hopeful but inexperienced millennials will be quite different once THEY become the business leaders and experience the realities and limitations many of us have discovered. But such reductionism misses the point.
These two survey responses suggest that the coming generation of leaders, customers and employees have higher expectations for both the purpose and capability of business. And in many ways, if they believe it now, these millennials might just 'make it so' as they rise up the ranks. The next logical step is that the successful company of the next generation will need to (disruptively) innovate not just in the products and services it offers, but also in the ways that it considers and pursues its greater Purpose. At the same time, it must also enhance its capability to encourage societal development - or in the words of the survey, to “solve society’s biggest challenges.”
Many leaders have already begun this self-reflection and innovation within their companies, but it is a journey full of risk and uncertainty. Whether you are a millennial or a current business leader (or both!), these studies suggest that disruptive innovation toward a meaningful Purpose represents key work today toward building the businesses of the next generation.