"First" Culture & Millennials: Pursuit of the Next Big Thing

Millennials Workplace Culture 01

As anyone who has stumbled onto a YouTube video and been brave enough to venture to the “comments” section can tell you, people who are using technology now have an obsession with first. On videos and blogs, it’s not entirely uncommon to see five or six commenters touting that they were the first person to see the video, before anyone else. Whether this stems from the Millennial hipster’s desire to discover the next cool thing before it’s in the mainstream, or if it comes from the innate human desire to mark our territory as ours before anyone else, it’s undeniable that the “First” Culture is growing, and Millennials are a bigger part of it than anyone else.

We’ve all seen "First" Culture, even if we don’t realize it. Creating the next big thing is great, but it takes a lot of effort and ingenuity that Millennials simply aren’t willing to give. They want the quick and dirty path to fame, and if that means being the first person to show a new band, a new restaurant, a new app, or a new social media site to their friends, then that’s the route Millennials will go. And boy are they going. It seems as though every week a new app is touted as the coolest new thing to hit the App Store yet, and with it comes the hordes of people exclaiming that they knew it first.

In the tech world, this desire for Firsthood is widely acknowledged, so much so that Samsung adopted their new slogan for the Galaxy S line of smart phones: “The Next Big Thing is Already Here”. This advertising campaign plays off of the Apple Fanboy desire to have the newest, coolest, and fastest smartphone—before the rest of the pack. The transition from the hip underground to the not-so-hip mainstream is volatile, and each area has its pros and cons. The mainstream, while generally regarded as uncool or overused, is more visible and has a significantly wider audience. The underground, while seen as hip and innovative, can be essentially invisible to target audiences.

So where’s the sweet spot for an organization trying to appeal to Millennials? The only way to reap the benefits of both the mainstream and underground is by being a part of both: An underground organization brought into the mainstream. The iPhone is the prime example. Seen as an almost essential accessory to any self-respecting hipster, the iPhone appeals to the underground with its sleek design and access to nearly a million apps (more fodder for Firsthood). At the same time, iPhones account for half of all smart phones, and more than half of all tablets. New and hip, but widely visible, the iPhone strikes the perfect balance.

What does this have anything to do with “First” Culture or managing Millennials? Well for one, a lesson is screaming to be learned from "First" Culture? In a previous post, I talked about how community is the future of talent acquisition among Millennials. But getting Millennials to engage with a talent community can be difficult. That’s where “First” Culture comes in. Talent Communities are here to stay, but millennial interns are relatively unfamiliar with them. Some Millennial somewhere is going to discover Talent Communities and spread it to their social network, and odds are it’s going to happen sooner rather than later. Being the Talent Community that gets discovered and popularized as the next cool thing is the easiest way to garner trust and engagement from Millennials and interns.

Lily Vlach