The Millennials Are Coming, The Millennials Are Coming-R U RDY For Some Football?


In a recent discussion, Michael Crow (President of Arizona State University – home of ISM) was discussing the launch of a new program and made some very meaningful and astute observations.  He opined that the Millennials are looking for a “life having purpose” and doing “meaningful” work.  He pointed out that on average they will have 4 careers and 15 different jobs – each!!!  His argument was that given that, preparing them for a specific career or job track is meaningless to them.  His new program (focused on public service) is therefore targeted at teaching students how to be ”Master Learners” and not master some specific learnings to a specific career path.  Very clearly an innovative approach for a population segment that is vastly different than older generations (gosh – where have I heard that before multiple times 🙂  ).

American football is not known for innovative ways – in fact, it’s a very traditional, hierarchical environment and teams are more important than individuality.  It would therefore be the last place to look for innovation but lo and behold the St. Louis Rams (who just beat the Seattle Seahawks in overtime for those that don’t follow the sport that was a huge and unexpected upset!!) have taken a radically new approach. 

The Rams have the youngest team in the league and therefore the expectations were very low this season.  But they did something very innovative – they acknowledged and recognized that the millennials learn differently and therefore perhaps the Rams needed to change the way they taught – a novel concept indeed – not!  Amongst many other attributes, the Rams learned that their (millennials) attention spans are shorter, they are much more technology savvy; they need to know the “why” of everything before they will embrace it; they like to share everything with others.  “Our players learn better with two phones and music going and with an iPad on the side,” he (Coach) said. “That’s new.”

The Rams responded by re-examining their entire training strategy and made some fundamental sweeping changes.  Gone are the hours-long team meetings replaced with shorter meetings but more “adoption” of new concepts on the field – a focus on competency development through application of new skills. No more early morning wake up calls – a long held tradition in the sport and a test of manliness (supposedly).  A stronger focus on visual learning has accelerated the learning process.  Many new players had already shared a ton of information with each other and bonded using social media – way before they showed up for training camp.  This has clearly meant a very painful adaptation process for the older coaches who may just be migrating to smart phones and using the internet.

For those of you who are alumni of TMG’s Strategic Sourcing/Supply Chain “U”, a lot of this will sound familiar.  While these are concepts and techniques that you have seen us utilize, it is still quite exciting to see a sport like football finally waking up.  We saw a similar kind of upheaval in baseball when Moneyball rolled around and it spread from baseball to other sports.  Don’t be surprised to see that again.  According to the Rams, “The next frontier in football is understanding the mind and figuring out how you can test and teach,” and “every company is trying to train new employees differently, football players aren’t the only millennials”.  Is your company doing the same?



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