New York Times Editorial: NUvention Courses Show Millennials’ Potential to Change Corporate Culture

Millennials leverage whole-brain thinking and take risks, spurring innovation

With a reliance on instantaneous and transparent communication, a thirst for knowledge, and a willingness to take on large projects regardless of experience, members of the millennial generation (those born between 1980 and 2000) are threatening to overhaul traditional corporate culture. And that may not be a bad thing. 

In a New York Times editorial, Tom Agan, managing partner at consulting firm Rivia, says millennials’ unique strengths and skills are best suited to spur innovation and growth in companies going forward — and he uses the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science’s suite of NUvention courses as evidence. 

Agan argues the traditional top-down organizational structure of many companies concentrates power and decision-making in the hands of a few senior personnel, stifling innovation. Millennials, on the other hand, thrive on transparency and the free flow of information — two required components for innovation — thanks to an upbringing immersed in social media and nonstop communication. Leaders who favor a more decentralized model that fosters learning, encourages teamwork, and offers younger workers a voice in the decision-making process will “watch innovation explode.”

The NUvention courses, run by Northwestern’s Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, are a good example of this process, Agan says. The courses gather Northwestern students in interdisciplinary teams that are mentored by older, experienced faculty members and alumni, who teach students the entire innovation and entrepreneurial life cycle, from idea to launch. The format has gotten results. “Over the last two years, three of these teams have won first- or second-place awards in the Rice Business Plan Competition, to the tune of more than $1.5 million in prize money,” Agan writes. 

 “Millennials work more closely together, leverage right- and left-brain skills, ask the right questions, learn faster, and take risks previous generations resisted,” said Mike Marasco, director of the Farley Center, in the editorial. ”They truly want to change the world and will use technology to do so.”

Read the entire story at the New York Times.