The topic surprised me – (yet) another take on the generations. The good news – he took a new angle that was slightly contrarian and a step ahead. Looking at the Millennials, Gladwell clarified a key weakness of the social networking generation, with some recommendations to help leverage their strengths.
He compared the civil rights movement to the recent Occupy movement. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to bring the principles of nonviolence to the United States. The Occupy movement wants to bring change and accountability to the financial systems of our economy, among other goals. The movements differ on how they are structured.
King used careful strategy and a “command and control” structure to unify people and achieve his goals. Gladwell went through all of the methodical steps needed to bring systematic change. That movement had the components of a hierarchy – a strong leader, a disciplined organization, and a guiding ideology. He then compared that model with the Occupy movement – no leader, no clear ideology, and no unifying strategy.
The point is that hierarchies are not the millennial’s strength. Millennials don’t learn from expert sources, they learn from their peers on Wikipedia. To learn chess, they don’t learn from an expert and take lessons, they play people from all over the world on the internet and study clips on YouTube.
In summary, in some situations the network works best. In other s, the hierarchy is needed. The challenge is teaching Millennials hierarchical thinking. The network has driven the Arab Spring, but a hierarchy is needed to leverage the next step. Without the structure, the new ideas will fail.