62% of Millennials Believe Themselves to Be Innovative: Are They Wrong?


This month, Deloitte released a huge “Millennial Innovation survey.” They interviewed thousands of millennials (here defined as people born after 1982), who have some sort of degree and full-time employment, from 16 markets around the globe. Each was interviewed about their opinions on innovation. The results are fascinating, and hint the world-view possessed by the generation preparing to take power.

Some of the statistics give an indication of the way the millennial generation feels business’s role in innovation. Traditional ideas like “the purpose of business is to create wealth” (only 15% agreed) and “the route to social innovation is through individual businesses working in competition with one another” (only 19% agreed) suffered, while ideas like “collaboration,” “employee retention and satisfaction,” and “improving society” were given huge weight. Forty-five percent believe businesses are the primary drivers of innovation, leaving the government (18%) and academia (17%) in the dust.

Equally interesting, the survey gives a glimpse of what millennials thought of themselves. The survey makes it very clear who millennials think are the competent innovators.

To be fair, 60% of millennials think their employers are innovative (only 53% in the public sector). However, only half of them believe their employer helps them to be innovative, and just as many think it would be easier for them to innovate if they worked for themselves than in a large business. That’s important, apparently, because 62% of them define themselves as innovative people.

The thing is: I can’t tell them they’re wrong.

I have spent the last four years of my life immersed in the culture of the collegiate millennial, both in business school and in political organizations. So, I am in a better position than most to say I am really impressed by my peers’ capacity for innovation.

On the political side, I have seen some great first-hand examples. The Maryland Student Legislature ran a fully functioning model government, where they have drafted new and exciting policy solutions via legislation. I have sat on an emergency financial reform commission that actually came up with solutions for our broken campus group funding system. MyMaryland.net created a new engagement platform for elected officials. And the Roosevelt Institute, a completely millennial-run think tank, just released a huge study of millennial attitudes about government called “Government By and For Millennial America.” They determined that most important values to our demographic are transparency, equality, and fairness, and that the most important role of government is as steward of the common good.

In business, the non-profit Food Recovery Network (featured on MSNBC) has created a self-sustaining system for college students, universities, and businesses to work together to save otherwise wasted food and feed the hungry. The Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship sponsors competing millennial entrepreneurs. MyFridgeRental.com rents mini-fridges to college students, and Reed Street Productions hosts a charity 5K race that simulates running away from a zombie apocalypse.

Feel free to post your own examples below.

There are tons of challenges incoming for the millennial generation: resource scarcity, inflation, and aging populations are the three biggest challenges identified by the Deloitte survey. But I am encouraged by the consistent innovation of my peers.

Sixty-two percent of millennials believe themselves to be innovative people. I say they had better be.