Millennials, Homophily and the Death of Leadership

homogenizedIt used to be that attending college exposed young adults to new experiences, new people and new ways of thinking—but that was then and this is now.

Years ago, when writing about hiring, I said,

People want to spend their time with people like themselves, that is their comfort zone, and that is where they hire. Managers prefer to hire people

  • from backgrounds they understand;
  • working in areas in which the manager feels knowledgeable;
  • with experiences and education to which the manager can relate; and
  • with a resume that makes the manager’s decision look good even if the hire doesn’t work out.

Homophily has been increasing in most social settings, including the workplace, over the years and now young people have climbed on that bandwagon with a vengeance.

Instead of the adventurous attitudes that have always been the province of youth, they want to avoid discomfort; sidestep as many human vagaries as possible and spend as much of their time as possible with people like themselves.

This is especially true of college freshmen.

Helping them avoid discomfort is a market niche occupied by the likes of Lifetopia and RoomBug, in collusion with their universities, as well as open sources such as URoomSurf and, of course, the ubiquitous Facebook.

But some worry that it robs young adults of an increasingly rare opportunity for growth: exposure to someone with different experiences and opinions.

“Very quickly, college students are able to form self-selected cliques where their views are reinforced,” noted Dalton Conley, an N.Y.U. sociology professor…

It is not a lack in the diversity of race, nationality or even gender that is worrisome; rather it is the lack of diversity of thought.

Homogenized thinking kills creativity, stunts innovation, increases intolerance and supports bigotry.

Homogenized thinking destroys leadership—today’s and tomorrows.

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