Millennials Have (and Need) Big Problems to Solve.

Rather than wringing their hands over young people’s fecklessness, educators, politicians, CEOs, and other leaders of this rising generation must learn to engage its need for a higher purpose by setting lofty and meaningful goals

Whole Foods has been a corporate pioneer in evolving its “higher purpose.” John Mackey, its visionary CEO, explains that the Millennial generation was born to engage, and overcome, lofty challenges.

Watch the video here:

What’s the Big Idea?

 A recent study found that Millennials––the generation born between 1981 and 2000––are generally dissatisfied with their jobs and disaffected with their long-term career prospects. Offered a better opportunity, Millennials are significantly more likely than previous generations to jump ship. This wariness to commit is understandable. The economy’s in recession, salaries are stagnant, employee benefits have been scaled back . . . but John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, sees in all this the birth pangs of a Brave New World:

I think our culture; the collective American culture is going through a period of transformation. A lot of the things that America has done for a while now aren’t working. I’m watching disintegration occur around me.

And yet:

Every generation tries to solve problems that its parents’ generation was unable to solve. It’s kind of their job. And I think that the Millennial Generation is a generation that for it to completely fulfill itself, it’s going to have to take on big goals.

Young people in America today face tougher challenges than their Baby Boomer parents did, Mackey argues. The prosperity and stability the country enjoyed after World War II is no longer guaranteed. “And in order for humanity to continue to evolve and advance, in order for America not to disintegrate, we’re dependent on the young to innovate, to create, to be entrepreneurs; to make their lives count for something.”

As they come to adulthood in a world full of heroic challenges, Mackey believes, millennials will rise to meet them. Whole Foods’ staff is almost 50% millennials, and Mackey describes those he has met as highly creative, collaborative, communicative, and pragmatic––a rare blend of qualities that will give this generation the strength and flexibility it needs to rebuild a smarter America.

What’s the Significance?

Rather than wringing their hands over young people’s fecklessness, educators, politicians, CEOs, and other leaders of this rising generation must learn to engage its need for a higher purpose by setting lofty and meaningful goals. Schools must make explicit connections between cellular biology and humanity’s future. Presidential candidates must offer bold solutions to our long-term problems. Corporations must invest sincerely in the well-being of all of their stakeholders, not only of their stockholders.

This is not a dog-and-pony show. As Whole Foods’ evolution demonstrates, what animates millennials––global sustainability, work-life balance, commitment to a higher purpose––benefits everybody, stockholders included. Ironically, what may appear at first like a management challenge to retain employees, get votes, or keep kids from dropping out of school is actually an opportunity to reexamine ourselves and absorb the wisdom of those who haven’t yet learned what isn’t possible.

This post is part of the series Inside Employees' Minds, presented by Mercer.

China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Keep reading Show less

Project 100,000: The Vietnam War's cruel and deadly experiment

Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?

Flickr user Tommy Truong79
Politics & Current Affairs
  • During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
  • The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
  • Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
Keep reading Show less

Here's how diverse the 116th Congress is set to become

The 116th Congress is set to break records in term of diversity among its lawmakers, though those changes are coming almost entirely from Democrats.

(Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Women and nonwhite candidates made record gains in the 2018 midterms.
  • In total, almost half of the newly elected Congressional representatives are not white men.
  • Those changes come almost entirely from Democrats; Republican members-elect are all white men except for one woman.
Keep reading Show less