More on Millennials

June 8, 2018

The other evening, I attended a chapter meeting of SCIP. To tell the truth, I was there to plug our new book, Competitive intelligence Rescue: Getting It Right. We had a very fluid discussion among those attending, all very experienced in competitive intelligence.

One of the topics that emerged was Millennials. For the sake of privacy, I will not attribute specific comments to anyone. Besides, some of this contains my interpretation of the impact and meaning of these personal observations.

Here are some of the observations and my comments on them:

  • Millennials seem to believe that they can easily evaluate the veritable sea of data because they swim in it every day. That often means that they are not interested in a formal analysis of what that data means, i.e., intelligence, but rely on their interpretations, made on the fly. That, in turn, means that they are relatively self-centered in their assessments.
  • Millennials are cautious about or even suspicious of what they see and hear, being raised in a world surrounded by data that is very often unverified and sometimes inherently questionable. That data ranges from advertising to news sources. Oddly, they are not so cautioous about what they receive from personal sources, which has its own downside.
  • Millennials tend to gravitate to secondary data when making decisions, since they have the Internet at hand (literally), a magical source of secondary data. But they shy away from accessing primary research data, that is data developed from interviews of relative strangers. That is because they are reluctant to talk with others, particularly those who are not already a part of their own social or work environments. Many strongly prefer to use email or texts to telephone or face-to-face communications. That, of course, means the immediate loss of the context provided by listening for inflections, pauses, as well as watching body language.

All of this bodes poorly for the creation, use, and impact of CI in their day-to-day business activities.


Emerging Problems for Elicitation Interviewers

May 30, 2018

A recent newspaper article[1] discussed the ongoing “death of voicemail”, particularly in the case of millennials. Now, I have previously pontificated on some the difficulties of communicating with millennials, Millennials and Competitive Intelligence (2 parts)[2], but this takes it to a new level.

If the trend this fascinating article describes holds, the death of voice mail will have a significant impact on competitive intelligence research’s elicitation interviews. One key element of that is that you, the researcher, are able to get access to someone you have never met, whose business email and/or personal email accounts you do not know, to talk with them.

Consider these quotes from this interesting article:

“When people leave me voice messages, I just delete them without even checking. If they want to get hold of me, they can text me.”

“This is a large generalization, but they [millennials] don’t feel that comfortable in face-to-face spoken interaction or its derivative over the phone.”

“In the last three to five years the majority of phone calls in my world are booked ahead of time, just like a meeting.”

“Fewer and fewer people are going to have that skill [talking on the phone].”

As an aside, the people and patterns described in this article do not bode well for those very millennials described therein. Why? Ok, how do you get to know new people in your own business or neighborhood or graduating class when you only respond, by email or text, to a message on your voice mail (but never listening to the voice mail), only so long as you already know that person’s phone numbers and email addresses. A very static circle, isn’t it?

I wonder what would happen if the EVP called one of these people to ask questions about a report he/she did, and never received a reply because the employee did not recognize the EVP’s cell number, so he/she just deleted the message without listening to it. Think about it.

[1] ETHAN BARON, “How the death of voicemail is changing the way we connect”, The [San Jose] Mercury News, May 13, 2018.

[2] https://diy-ci.com/2015/09/10/millennials-and-competitive-intelligence-part-1-of-2/ and https://diy-ci.com/2015/09/15/millennials-and-competitive-intelligence-part-2-of-2/.


Millennials and Competitive Intelligence (Part 1 of 2)

September 10, 2015

Why this topic? I chose it because there is increasing research to the effect that Millennials, and probably also Gen X, operate differently in the work environment than do those of other generations: Baby Boomers, the Greatest Generation, and other species of dinosaurs.

Some of the key characteristics of Millennials in the workplace, at least as they bear on competitive intelligence, are as follows[1]:

  • They tend to work longer hours than other employees.
  • They are less likely to suggest or to participate in face-to-face activities.
  • They prefer their incoming communications to be written, which means they avoid phone calls and particularly make sure most calls are diverted to voicemail.
  • When they do talk they prefer to keep their talks short, so there is no “small talk”.
  • They are heavily involved with social media, both at their work site and in their private life, and usually include details of both in that media.
  • They prefer to be multitasking, or more accurately multi-conversing, which means they are not necessarily paying complete attention to each of the email, IM, Twitter, and telephone/online conferences that they are simultaneously engaged in.
  • They are regarded generally as willing to “speak their minds”.

In this blog, I want to indicate how this impacts the collection of competitive intelligence from them – having them as targets of CI activities. In the next blog, I will comment on what these things mean when they do their own CI collection, joining into the community of DIYers, as well as when consuming CI provided to them by others.

So let’s first take a quick look at how these characteristics change collecting competitive intelligence from them:

  • Working longer hours – if you are seeking to do an elicitation interview with one of them, you have a good chance of catching them either a little bit before the beginning of the regular workday or, more likely, after the end of the regular workday. They are more likely to be alone and presumably less distracted, making them better elicitation targets.
  • Avoiding face-to-face activities – they are not likely to be able to be easily engaged in conversations aimed at eliciting competitively sensitive information at a trade show, business conference, or the like.
  • Avoiding phone calls and preferring emails – this makes setting up interviews harder because it is not always easy to find individual business email addresses. That is not to say that they cannot be found. But if the only way you can set up an interview with someone who would prefer to have all of their voicemail diverted to record is through an email, you have to do the extra work.
  • Avoiding small talk – by its very nature, an elicitation interview involves some degree of small talk if for no other reason than to conceal the key question or questions that are driving the need for the interview. This means taking a more direct and almost abrupt approach in the hope of getting the data.
  • Social media preference – this makes it easier to collect information on a potential elicitation target by checking his or her Facebook, LinkedIn etc. account. It also means that, unlike older employees at the same enterprise, they are more likely to put competitively sensitive information on these public sites because they believe that all of their life drives the content of their site.
  • Multitasking – if you can get their attention during the combined IM, email or the telephone conversations, you are more likely to be able to elicit at least one or two pieces of competitively useful information because they are not paying full attention to what they are saying; rather their attention is divided between two or among even three separate ongoing communications.
  • Willing to speak their mind – from the point of view of the elicitation interview, that is delightful. Enough said.

[1] For example, see http://www.forbes.com/sites#/sites/jacquelynsmith/2012/09/13/how-millennials-work-differently-from-everyone-else/; http://blog.mltcreative.com/Baby-Boomers-Gen-Xers-and-Millennials-Their-Different-Communication-Preferences; and http://axerosolutions.com/blogs/timeisenhauer/pulse/307/how-to-communicate-with-millennials-at-work-18-surefire-tips.