THE BLOG

Grateful for Gen Z

04/28/2015 06:05 pm ET | Updated Jun 27, 2015

We all know more than enough about Millennials - who they are, how they consume media, what they want from brands, and other assorted minutiae from the foods they eat to the slang they use.

Millennials are the most researched generation in history and the general consensus seems to be that they're entitled, fame-seeking, micro-video creating, over-sharing overachievers that work at super techy, ultra-hip, creative startup jobs. Much has also been made of the habits of, smaller, micro-generation subsets of Millennials - take for example, the one I fall into: X-ennials, who display characteristics of both Gen X and Millennials. We're comfortable using social media but old enough to remember life without it.

While researchers and marketers have focused on Millennials over the past decade, a new generation is coming of age. Those born after 2000 - and dubbed "Generation Z" - are somewhat anti-Millennial. They reject many Millennial values, and are, in my (optimistic) opinion, primed to make the world a better place.

Gen Z-ers grew up in a post-recession world where they saw older siblings and parents deal with economic instability. They want to see the world change, and want to work hard to be part of that change. Many grew up in households with more than two generations living under one roof and developed real respect for their elders.

Sound familiar? Maybe you, like me, are close to grandparents who grew up during the Great Depression. They told you to expect nothing, work hard, and respect your elders.

According to the Gen Z Effect, Gen Z is the first generation to break down generational barriers. People of all ages are using the same technology in work and personal lives. For the first time ever, rather than technology dividing and defining generations, it's unifying us and creating a "post generational world."

Gen Z-ers are making the biggest impact in the following areas:

Social Change - This generation wants to change the world and unprecedented access to information makes them one of the most knowledgeable generations in history, embracing causes from environmental issues to social injustices to alleviating poverty. A study conducted by Sparks & Honey shows that Social Entrepreneurship is one of Gen Z's most popular career choices, and 26% of 16-19 year olds currently volunteer.

Education - A shift towards free and open education, online and off, may change the way we look at degrees. Despite predictions that college enrollment will increase across the board, will a college education always be important in the eyes of potential employers?

Diversity - There has been a 400% increase in multi racial marriages over the past 30 years, and multi racial children are the fastest growing youth group in the US. It will be interesting to see if the uptick in diversity will allow for less racial bias and more understanding across cultures. Gen Z not only rejects identifying with one race, but self-identity is also less defined by gender than in past generations. They're also more globally connected, with 26% of Gen Z living a plane ride away from most of their social network friends.

Collaboration - Raised in a culture where the vernacular included words like "crowdsourcing," "crowdfunding," "inclusive classrooms" and more, they flourish in group settings and are better team players than any generation in history.

Productivity- From the expanding wearables market to activity trackers embedded into everyday clothing, every moment is an opportunity to be productive. According to The Cassandra Report: Gen Z, 89% of 7 to 17-year-olds spend their free time doing productive or creative activities instead of just hanging out. And they're inspired by the success of other kids, whether older or younger. For example, 4-year-old Sydney Keiser creates paper reconstructions of red carpet couture, documented on Fashion by Mayhem. J.Crew liked them enough to enlist this preschooler to design an entire summer collection for Crewcuts. Cue feelings of inadequacy.

Ano-Sharing - Growing up in a culture of over-sharing and with a hyper awareness of NSA surveillance issues has made privacy a luxury for Gen Z. As a counter trend to obsessive oversharing, Gen Z-ers are creating a culture of what I'm dubbing "ano-sharing" with apps like Whisper, YikYak and Secret, which allow users to post anonymous thoughts, feelings and observations. The jury is still out on whether or not these apps will have the ability to filter conversations in a way that keeps everything positive and sans cyber-bullying, but these communities have been slowly evolving to be much more self-corrective and tend to "vote off" overly negative comments.

If Gen Z truly does share all the best qualities of the Greatest Generation, then we're about to see a workforce made up of motivated, resourceful, hard working individuals that want to make the world a better place. This group will be more diverse, more technologically savvy, and have more information at their fingertips than any previous generation - well positioned to put innovative technologies to good use. It will be certainly be exciting to watch them evolve.