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How to Innovate Like a Millennial


Wed Feb 03 2016

How to Innovate Like a Millennial

Innovation does not occur at a single point in time. It requires a combination of creativity, drive, collaboration, determination, and the critical ability to constantly pivot and make course corrections. I recently had the opportunity to speak with two Millennials regarding their approach to innovation and their secrets to success.

First, I interviewed Spencer Costanzo, my son and co-founder of Spreesy, which enables commerce on popular social networks such as Instagram. I also interviewed Chino Lex, co-founder of tapTrax, which offers rapid music discovery and playlist curation. Spencer and Chino separately founded and sold highly successful app companies they started while still in high school. Following high school, they each decided not to attend college and chose full-time entrepreneurship. Their early app companies provided the funding for their current startups.


Here are some key Millennial characteristics I gleaned from our conversation:


Millennials are good at managing multiple complexities at the same time. For example, Spencer and Chino excel at product conceptualization and development from the ground up, finance, marketing, customer service, and self-sufficiency, along with personal well-being.


Interestingly, Spencer’s and Chino’s success comes from their willingness to be patient and allow their innovations to mature and evolve. It’s clear that they are not all about the money or a fast IPO.


Millennials value the pivot; the first idea is never the final idea. Success is determined by openness, flexibility, determination, optimism, and courage to change directions, modify approaches, change business models, and make course corrections.

“Most ideas are the result of combining two or more existing ideas or systems,” said Spencer. “For example, as we developed Spreesy.com, we discovered that the ever-increasing power influencers have on social networks combines with the idea that social proof drives commerce. In addition, business plans are irrelevant to us because we start new projects knowing they’ll look completely different after several pivots.”


Collaboration and Diversity 

Rather than doing everything alone, Millennials seem to value multidimensional thinking. They seek out others who add a dimension, expertise, knowledge, or abilities they do not have. Millennials also combine their vantage points with curiosity, intelligent risk taking, and frugality to spot and capitalize on opportunities.

“I look around; I'm observant. I see what works. Then I apply what works in one domain to different domains in a creative way, with a new story or perspective,” added Chino.


Both Spencer and Chino, like many Millennials, are autodidacts. There are two important factors with regard to self-education: “The first is believing that you can learn anything or understand anything with time and effort,” said Spencer. “The second is blocking out everything that isn’t relevant (theory and so forth) and focusing fully on those things that are key to your business in the moment.”

According to Chino, Millennials are objective, and maybe even contrarian, because they believe they know the truth or are in search of it. “We can quickly make decisions and then articulate solutions with brevity,” he said.

Emotional Intelligence 

In the workplace, Millennials like Spencer and Chino are personable and have a knack for communicating and empathizing with people. These characteristics help with negotiation, networking, asking for help with specific problems, and thinking critically when solving problems, according to the pair.


“Communication is key,” added Chino. “No instruction, pitch, plan, or proposal can ever be effective without clear and concise communication.”

As you reflect on the experiences and knowledge shared by these young Millennials, think about your own experiences regarding innovation and how you have approached these moments. How will you leverage your own competencies and characteristics as you become involved with rapidly evolving innovation initiatives? Taking cues from Millennials on reviving lost arts such as patience, diversity, collaboration, and flexibility can be the key to your success.

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