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Millennial Mixers: Brainstorm Your Way to Retention

Last week, Purpose Generation invited 15 young women to participate in our first official “Millennial Mixer”. The purpose of our Millennial Mixers is to bring together a diverse and brilliant group of Millennial minds in a new environment to learn from one-another and think creatively about a challenge or a topic.

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What do you spend your day dreaming about?

This particular ideation session started off with a simple, yet provoking question: “What do you spend your day dreaming about?” Given that most people in the room did not know each other, we were prepared for timid responses in the warm-up round, as not everyone may feel comfortable sharing their life dreams with a group of strangers. On top of that, the majority of these women worked at large corporations, banks, or consulting firms, where creative ideation sessions and icebreakers are few and far between. However, timid is the last word I would use to describe these women’s dreams. None of their responses reflected “corporate speak” and each idea shared seemed to inspire the next person to venture even further outside of the box. In fact, almost every single woman was daydreaming of a business plan for some creative product or service. (At the risk breaking our promise of “what happens in the Mixer stays in the Mixer,” we will not disclose them here). In hindsight, the responses were not very surprising given the entrepreneurial acumen of our generation – 54% of Millennials want to start their own business or have already started one – but we were impressed by everyone’s enthusiasm and candor in sharing their vivid “daydreams.”

After the mixer, many of the attendees came up to us and commented on how it had been a “highlight of their week” and how much they enjoyed the opportunity to “think outside of the box.”  I wish we could take credit for this amazing feedback, but the sad truth is that many of these women don’t get to let out their creative energy at work, often getting stuck in daily routines and inflexible job descriptions.

Even as the power of brainstorming and collective knowledge exchanges in the workplace is becoming more evident, the vast majority of office environments today still fail to leverage the creative potential of their workforce.

Over the past year, there have been a number of articles that question the true value of brainstorming in driving innovation. I don’t entirely disagree with some of the arguments they present – it’s true, after all, that “forced” creativity doesn’t always lead to breakthrough ideas. However, our Millennial Mixer highlighted another important benefit of brainstorming that is often overlooked: employee engagement.

Investing just one hour a week to gather your young employees for an interactive ideation session around a particular challenge your company or industry is facing could be critical to retaining your top talent. Sometimes referred to as the DIY generation, Millennials look for environments in which they feel they can participate and are part of crafting the solution. This is partially why we’re drawn to start-ups, because they eliminate the corporate bureaucracy that quells our voices and our passion. This is something that is never a problem when you’re sharing a 6×6 office in a co-working space with the founder of your company.

To all the corporations suffering from Millennial talent drain, may I suggest this: give us a voice. It can be as simple as hosting a weekly brainstorming session, but create a platform that empowers young idealists, like the women who attended our Mixer last week. And who knows, you may even come up with some great ideas in the process!