Experts say that a new social generation is born every 10-20 years, and in that time, people not only tend to develop similarities with each other, but also common dissimilarities with other generations. This is significant because as each generation ages, the blend of personality types in the economy shifts. I am a millennial, a generation just on the cusp of substantial professional leadership, and we’ll most certainly leave our mark in the coming years.
We are the product of the positive economic and political climates of the 80’s and 90’s, a time that pushed America to unprecedented superpower status. American society prospered. Advances in communication technology and logistics gave our generation unprecedented tools and access to the globe. We were the first generation raised with computers and the internet. The “Me” generation that raised us basically invented consumerism, so we were fortunate to be raised in an environment rich with material possessions. For us though, what became important was not just acquiring more things, but sharing them. And the internet unlocked sharing like never before. Facebook, twitter, tumblr, snapchat. These are nothing more than platforms to share feelings, ideas, places and objects with one another. Think of the amateur hiker who climbs his or her first mountaintop. Or the parents who records their baby’s first words. You betcha they’re posting those photos and videos as soon as they can. Why? Because they want to share the experience! In previous generations, sharing was limited to those present, and that has completely changed. We are the generation of “shared experiences”, and it’s how we prefer to spend our time and money.
I anticipate that in the future, as more and more millennials make it into leadership, we will see more innovation in the realm of experiential services, both in the digital-frontier, and the real world. Discretionary income will move away from long-term material goods like cars and spacious homes, and towards life experiences like travel and hobbies. So how can a millennial entrepreneur capitalize, if not also encourage, this burgeoning segment of the service industry? Let’s take coffee shops for example:
If you look at a coffee shop today, modeled after the Starbucks era, it remains a very individual experience. The orders are individually made, named and delivered. The café tables are generally designed for two seats, and couches and benches always have that awkward gap between customers as each minds their own business. I’m glad this arrangement exists, in fact I’m using such an environment now to write this, but what if we create another style of shop that incorporates the millennial idea of “shared experience”.
Interactivity. It’s a principle rarely encountered in coffee shops I’ve visited, and I’ve visited a lot. What if it were the centerpiece? Let’s make it educational, and let’s enable people to share a real-world experience together. Let’s make coffee the destination, and the process, the journey. Imagine a coffee shop that allows you to participate in the coffee-brewing, not dissimilar to a fondue restaurant that allows you to be your own chef. By creating an environment that fosters interactive, shareable experiences, you’re creating an opportunity for a group, rather than just the individual. It has the potential to compete with, or supplement, movie theaters, bowling alleys, clubs and restaurants in entertaining the nightlife crowd. Like a brewery tour that lets you brew your own beer while you’re there. That’s certainly something I’d like to do. Will you join me?
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