Perennial power

Mar 06, 2017

Much has been made of how to design workplaces that attract and inspire millennials. But there might be a better demographic filter for your workplace.

Millennials. Gen Y. Echo Boomers. Regardless of the name, this generation is unquestionably an influential cohort – particularly in our industry, where generational differences are often a driver of workplace design. As the biggest generation in the U.S. workforce, much has been made of how to design workplaces that attract, inspire, and enhance the productivity of millennials. But there may be a better demographic filter.

Meet the Perennials, which Fast Company recently defined as the “ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who live in the present time, know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology, and have friends of all ages. comprise an inclusive, enduring mind-set, not a divisive demographic.”

The concept of Perennials better reflects our reality online and off. Amazon and Netflix get it right with recommendation engines that target people based on behavioral data over outmoded generational stereotypes. How do we replicate this strategy in the workplace? Here are a few considerations.

Designing from the inside-out. Workplace design can inspire organizations, increase trust, and spark innovation. In order to leverage this potential, designers must identify core organizational values and the key people who keep their organizations energized. The Golden Circle and the Law of Diffusion of Innovation, two concepts about organizational motivation and impact, help designers and organizations create spaces that are designed from the inside-out.

The Golden Circle explains how every organization, regardless of its size or industry, knows what they do. A children’s hospital, a corporate law firm, and a bicycle component manufacturer all know their service. Within the organization, most people know how to do what they do. However, usually only a handful of people truly understand why they do what they do. An inspired organization grounds itself with its core belief – the why.

Perennials, the key to the why. To find the organization’s core, it’s important to engage Perennials, who are passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, and collaborative and typically go above and beyond to stay involved. They have their finger on the pulse of the latest advancements, and thrive in multiple networks. Whether they are the CEO or an intern, 70 years old or 22, they drive their organization to succeed. Their beliefs form the Golden Circle’s core.

Perennials make intuitive decisions based on what they believe. Within our U.S. population, the Law of Diffusion of Innovation shows that about 2.5 percent are innovators, 13.5 percent are early adopters, and 34 percent are either early majority or late majority. To design an inspiring environment, the organization must influence the tipping point (15 to 18 percent) of the law of diffusion of innovation. To exert this influence, designers should tap into the Perennials, who are most likely to be innovators and early adopters.

Yukari Yamahiro is a data knowledge manager at Perkins+Will. She can be reached at

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.