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In a world of morebetterfaster, simplicity has always been crucial. Throughout the next decade, however, your ability to build simplicity into working with people could determine the winners and losers in the war for talent.

Consider that over the next decade in the U.S.,

  • 70+ million Boomers will retire or re-focus their careers.
  • 70+ million GenYers will enter the workforce.
  • The average tenure at one job will be 18 months (Gartner) and even shorter for GenY: “If I don’t like it, I’ll just quit.”
  • What GenY will find: Of four stakeholder groups
    — company, executives, customers, and workforce
    — the workforce currently gets the least attention paid to simplifying things for them.
  • For GenY, user-centered training, development, and work tools will be key in whether they stay or they leave.

This new workforce will embody an alarming paradox. On one hand, they are the first generation ever to be raised on and trained for the total democratization of information. They will expect Google-like access to anything and everything, as well as totally user-centered experiences. On the other hand, according to Pew Charitable Trust, 50% of them will arrive without the skills they need for complex analysis and reasoning and clear communication.
Looks like a fun decade, huh? Well, it can be.

Simplicity: The New Competitive Advantage

While due diligence on simplicity can get rather, well, complex — knowing what to focus on is rather easy. Everything comes down to two basic criteria: How you use people’s time and how you use their attention.

This is what separates GenY from every past workforce. GenY will be extremely protective of these personal assets. Want their attention?

Earn it. Every communication, training module, and meeting must pack the most value (from their perspective) and require the least effort possible. Want their time? Earn it. You must be as respectful of every GenYer’s time as you are of your most senior executive or your most precious customer.

Getting Started

  1. Sense-Making and Meaning-Making Get Serious
    Most of us willingly sit through far too much Death by PowerPoint. Work products from skilled visualizers and facilitators like Root Learning, Autodesk, XPlane, and others will be the baseline if you want GenY’s attention.
  2. Training and Development Finally Get User-Centered
    T&D will not go all video-gamey… but it must be extremely personalized to how each person learns. A great example of this is UPS driver training. UPS didn’t abandon its 340 “methods.” It just changed how it taught them. GenYers are great disbelievers; they needed real-time evidence of right ways and wrong ways before they buy into an instructor’s wisdom.
  3. Practice The Golden Rule
    Use other people’s time and attention as if they were your own. Do that as if your turnover and retention rates depend on it. Because they do.

One last thing – have fun! Pick three things in your life that exemplify simplicity. I’ll guarantee they all bring a smile to your face.

May 12, 2008


I want to hear how you can help my organization align on and activate our strategy. Call me, today.

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