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  • Millennials and the Gore-Tex Way

    Something occurred to me the other day while re-reading an article on one of my favorite products and businesses.
    I love the outdoors and I live in the Pacific Northwest. As a result I own a lot of products with Gore-Tex providing protection from the elements. A lot of people may not be aware of the roots and philosophy of the W.L. Gore company… the makers of Gore-Tex products. I think Gore-Tex may have built a career model for Millenials.

    It is commitment, not authority, that produces results. ~ William Gore

    Millenials may owe their careers to Bill Gore and his wife Genevieve for founding the company way back in 1958 and creating the Lattice Organization.

    Millenials and the Gore-Tex way

    It occurred to me that Millennials are modeling their careers the Gore-Tex way. I’d guess this might be unintentional for the most part, but as I thought about it a little more, it seems the model that is being put into play by many Millennials was developed by Bill Gore at the W.L. Gore Company. Millenials may find themselves thanking Bill Gore for allowing and encouraging the creation of small teams (groups larger than 200 people are required to break up) into a Lattice Organization to innovate, improve and inspire.

    Principles of the Team-Based, Flat Lattice Organization

    • Belief in the Individual
    • Power of Small Teams
    • All in the Same Boat
    • Long-Term View

    These are the key points of the W.L. Gore philosophy on Lattice Organizations. I think two of these apply quite well to Millenials. The other two fall into place when the first two are realized.

    Gore-Tex saves, enhances lives & creates careers

    Most people know Gore-Tex for the use of their flagship product in outerwear to shed water while allowing the wearer to remain comfortable. But Gore-Tex and the applications for polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) go far beyond clothing. And the business model Bill Gore put into place allowed for much more.

    There are so many uses already in place today. The list of potential uses is always being expanded. Many are far outside the realm of what people know about Gore-Tex. For example, you have probably seen “Glide” dental floss which as you may have figured out is made with Gore-Tex.

    Did you know:

    • Gore-Tex HELUX is a component in dental and medical implants where Gore-Tex improves the ability for the body to heal quickly and bind to tissues stronger and faster?
    • How about the fact that Gore-Tex has made a significant dent in the guitar string market with their ELIXIR product?
    • Or that Gore-Tex saves the lives of firefighters with CROSSTECH?

    This is not a love letter to Gore-Tex the product. Rather it is recognition that Bill and Genevieve Gore built a model for running a business that has stood the test of time and has shown itself to be successful.

    The Lattice Organization is a model that Millenials can use to apply their skills and expertise to form a solid foundation for their careers. As alluded to above it occurred to me that the Lattice Organization is almost purpose-built for the way Millenials have been taught to work, think and engage with others.

    If you want to read the article I’ve referenced here is a link. Much more has been written about the company and the management philosophy. You can read what W.L. Gore says about their Team-Based, Flat Lattice Organization here.

    Whether you agree with the model or not there is a lot of merit for allowing closely knit groups to flow together for the project at hand and to dissipate when the project ends. This is a much more dynamic way to run the business. Even though it can introduce challenges for staffing, compensation & reward systems, as well as policy enforcement. In the end I think this is the model that serves businesses, as well as customers, best.

    I think Millenials have an opportunity to utilize Lattice Networked Organizational Skills to enhance their careers and to stand out in the crowded market place. Millenials that have the ability to work well with others, for short periods of time, and for longer periods of time when necessary, as well as those that can adapt to changing market conditions and skill sets will have a distinct advantage in the coming years. Many Millenials have been living this lifestyle for years and are well adapted and ready. Learning and un-Learning will be critical.

    The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn. ~ Alvin Toffler

    Key Point: This is NOT just for Millenials. To succeed in the business of tomorrow everyone will need to learn to adapt and adjust quickly to changing marketing conditions. In a nutshell everyone needs to develop their Change Management skills.

    Millenials are well suited to apply skills that work well in a Lattice Organization. Other generations may have a little catching up to do. But, as previous generations have shown they will work hard to adapt.

    What do you think?

    Are you working in a Lattice Organization today? How is it working for you? For your organization? For your customers?

    Share your thoughts here in the comments. I’d like to know if you think Lattice Organizations have the legs to run into the future. If not a Latticed Organization then what do you envision?

    Jeff is an expert in the Enterprise Content Management industry. He brings over 20 years of Channel Sales, Partner Marketing and Alliance expertise to audiences around the world in speaking engagements and via his writing. He has worked for Microsoft, Kodak, and K2. He is currently consulting with Microsoft and partners to drive Community Engagement and Alliances. Follow him on Twitter @jshuey or on LinkedIn: in/JeffShuey

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