“Put vinegar or onion under your scarf for tear gas”

As protesters in Tahrir Square in Egypt faced off against pro-government forces, they drew a lesson from their counterparts in Tunisia:  “Put vinegar or onion under your scarf for tear gas.”

You’d have to be living under a rock not to take note of what’s been happening in the Middle East over the last month. And it ain’t over yet. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece on the revolution in Egypt in my personal blog, “Millennials Rising.” I talked about what I thought all of it was about.

Well I tell you what it’s not about. It’s not about the price oil, Israel, the Muslim Brotherhood … and sure isn’t about terrorism – no matter what Glen Beck, or Rush Limbaugh says.  It’s about the “kids.”

And news flash – we have kids here too.

What we saw over there was the incredible execution of a game plan to overthrow regimes that had been in power for over three decades.  And they did it peacefully. The only violence committed in either Tunisia or Egypt was committed by those in power, not the demonstrators.

These young people used social media – Facebook, blogs and Twitter to communicate with each other and they followed a textbook … a textbook literally written years ago by a Harvard professor here in this country, Gene Sharp. And the disparate parts from all over the world worked together with military precision.

A don’t think this generation, Generation Y, the Millennials, hate their elders. On the contrary, they’re closer to them than we were at their age. It’s the truth. But for some reason their elders don’t seem to take them seriously.

“All they do is play video games and sit on Facebook.” It’s no different here in this country. And the ruling class of my old industry, printing – probably feels the same.

I don’t think you’ll lose your firm to a coup of “twenty somethings,” but then again maybe you will … if you don’t pay attention to this group. The printing industry you built, is hanging on for dear life, while the industry they built, social media, is on the way to the “next great frontier.” Recent speculation puts the valuation of Facebook at $50 billion, Twitter at $10 billion and Groupon at $6 billion. And all three of these companies were started and are privately held by this no good “video game generation.” Find me a printing group worth $10 billion let alone fifty.

Gen Y isn’t going to need to take over anything, well not anything but your clients. Because in a couple of years, if it isn’t happening already – most of the clients will be their peers. These will be people who they have as friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter. And what are you going to have … your Rolodex.

In the five short years since I quit recruiting,  my database for the most part has become a ghost of what it once was. Most of my contacts retired or just got burnt out and left the industry. I’m sure a lot of yours have too.

If the Millennials want to they’ll stay in the printing industry, they will … if they find it relevant. If not – they won’t. And with them will go their friends and followers – the clients.

But you don’t have to go of the way of Mubarak and Egypt or Ali and Tunisia. And all it takes is for you to listen and respect. Don’t treat this generation like you do your teenage children. Your priorities are not theirs.  The future of your firm will rely on how this group can identity with you and your company.

As I expounded on in my last piece, they are more concerned about others and the world than our generation is. If they don’t see you and your firm as being socially responsible – they will turn on you with the wrath of God. If you belittle their gaming culture or protest their socialization tendencies … they’ll do the same.

Remember your potential competition is not the same as it was twenty years ago. It doesn’t take millions of dollars to start a business. An extra bedroom, a couple of iMacs, that operator on your 2nd shift – and now you have your biggest nightmare. And there will be nothing you can do about it. Chances are they know more about technology than you do.

Why not use this knowledge … this resource. Do you let a perfectly good, new piece of equipment just sit there because you like the old one you’ve always used? What’s the difference?

What sort of reaction would you get if you went into your company tomorrow and called a meeting. Here’s the topic:

“What can we do to make OUR company appeal to young people and attract younger buyers. We don’t want to be old anymore.”

I guarantee you’d be enlightened. I also guarantee the word would get out that you had the coolest company to work for. You be the Google or Apple of your industry industry. And with it would come the best talent and the best ideas. And with that would follow profit.

Or maybe Mubarak has a spare room in Sharm-el-Sheikh. You can talk about the good old days.

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A successful blog post is when the comment flow provides more insight than the post itself. Please comment and add to the flow.

And if you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

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Millennials Rising!

Over the past year I’ve been writing about the Millennial Generation, Generation Y and their propensity to band together and move as groups. We see it with the proliferation of social media, heck, social media was invented by this generation, literally. Recently – here and elsewhere, I’ve talked about how workplace and societal treatment needs to be different for this generation. Stress collaboration not competition.

Most Boomers in power however just don’t get it. They view this “grouping together” as being clingy and over-dependant. “If you can’t fight on your own then you can’t fight.”

Well, as generational analysts Neil Howe and William Strauss, authors of the Fourth Turning, so rightly pointed out … history repeats itself. And the generation labeled as “clingy” is actually the same generation labeled as “the Greatest,” the heroes of Normandy Beach. Our boys, and I say all the boys of the Allied forces banded together and did what only a couple of years earlier was assumed impossible. They won World War II.

I believe we may be seeing another Normandy Beach, this time in Egypt and before in Tunisia. Only, the common foe is not Hitler, but rather the dictators on their own soils. The fight for democracy in the Arab world is the war of the Millennials. These are educated young adults who only want a chance. They see their peers in other parts of the world, United States included, having access to opportunities they can only dream. And these are opportunities they see every hour of every day. Because remember, they associate with each other – they communicate. And it doesn’t matter with who or where they’re at. As long as they have common interests.

I’ve been following the uprisings in the Middle East in-depth other the last three weeks. One thing I’ve noticed:  Nobody talks about why what’s happening is happening now. All you hear how is it going to effect us here in the United States, and what would happen if the dreaded Muslim Brotherhood gains control of Egypt. It seems as if there is an edict from above (and where that above is I don’t know), that we keep our ubiquitous “war on terror” front and center. “Anywhere there’s a Muslim, terrorism is sure to follow.”

Well boys and girls … this whole thing in the Middle East is not about being Muslim. It’s not about being a Christian. It’s not about Israel. And it sure ain’t about terrorism.

It’s about generational discontent. These are educated, well-connected, aware young adults who are driving these rebellions. It’s all about loving their countries and wanting to make a go of it. They don’t care if the person fighting next to them is Christian or Muslim or Buddhist or whatever. They’re all on the same team – “the Pursuit of Opportunity Team.” And their team is not prejudice.

It only seems like it’s the western media, the CNNs, Fox News’s, etc – that wants to create division where there are none.

Boomers, take notice … the Millennials are not like you. They’re not hung up on race and religion and sexual preference. They’re way past it. These are your issues – not theirs. Case in point, look at this picture:  “Christians protecting Muslims while they pray.”

I find it interesting that while Egypt’s Generation Y continues their battle for their country in the streets – their Boomer elders are jockeying for positions of power in the new government that will undoubtedly transpire. There are members of current regime claiming to be reformed. There’s members of opposing parties, claiming to be reformed. There’s even someone who’s been in exile claiming he’s the one to make everything all better. They all say they’ll listen to the “youth movement” and hear their plights … whatever. Never mind the only reason we’re having this conversation is because of the “youth movement.”

How this all turns out in Egypt, in Tunisia and wherever else the next rebellion is – is anyone’s guess. All I know, is that with the Millennials new-found confidence in political activism … it really doesn’t matter which of the Boomers take over next. If they don’t pay attention  – they’ll go the way their predessesor did.

They’ll just be an irrelevant old man.

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A successful blog post is when the comment flow provides more insight than the post itself. Please comment and add to the flow.

And if you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

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Revisiting Medici

A few years ago, when I was still down in Los Angeles, I was on my morning walk through West L.A. and I ran across a homeless gentleman collecting cans and bottles from a dumpster.  I stopped to talk to him.  We talked for about for fifteen minutes.

We talked about a lot things, the weather, the BP oil spill and eventually the conversation turned to the economy.  His take was that he thought things were getting worse, rather than what we’d been hearing from the news media. “How did you come up with that?”  I asked him.

“Well I see more cheap brand cans in the dumpsters than I used to.  Even last year when things were supposedly worse, people still drank Coke and Budweiser .  But now it’s changed.”  It’s Shasta and Natural Light.

Interesting, a frame of reference I wouldn’t have gotten through my normal channels.

I remembered a post I read in copyblogger.com talking about the Medici Effect during the start of the Renaissance.  At the end of the Dark ages poets, artists, painters, sculptors and the like came to Florence, Italy to study and collaborate thanks to patronization of the wealthy Medici family.  Essentially, this melding of different backgrounds and disciplines started the Renaissance.

How can we personally duplicate this for ourselves?

Get out of your comfort zone.  Humans are creatures of habit.  We tend to do the same things, associate with same type of people and be influenced by the same sources as we always have.

Mix it up!

If you are a doctor, hang with a plumber.  If you’re white, talk to a black person.  Take the bus sometime (no – people on buses don’t bite).  If you live on the west side, have dinner on the east side.  And most of all if you’re old (yes Boomers you are old) … get some insight from someone young – someone that’s not your own kid.

Our brains are nothing more than synaptic connections which are built and strengthened through habitual activity and thought.  Build some new ones,  God only knows we could use more.

Who knows … maybe your next piece of inspiration may come next to a dumpster.

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If you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

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