By Dr. Ben Gilad, ACI Faculty

I’ve been teaching at the Academy of Competitive Intelligence for 18 years now. It is hard to surprise me when it comes to teaching. Yet the program we just ran in Cambridge changed my perspective.

This was a big program, with attendance back to the good old days’ level of before the never-ending recession. While attendance at conferences in the field of CI seems to splinter between more than 6 annual meetings (at last count), our CIP™ certification seems to thrive. This is a great testament to the desire of competition analysts to get the original rigorous, challenging, immersive training.

Yet what was a perspective-changing experience for me was the absolute seriousness and devotion of the attendees. And what was even more surprising? The vast majority were millennials.

I am a proud baby boomer sliding gracefully (or not so gracefully) toward the end. We control the world. We refuse to yield. Just look at the ancient presumptive presidential nominees (or is it the presumably-presidential nominees?)

My perspective on Millennials is based on the media portray of a generation so self-indulging and shallow they get their world view from the Kardashians, and believe everything in life can be free. So I instinctively dislike them. Besides, I am probably jealous, too, but that’s not the point, is it?

So take a look at this photo. It’s a team of Masters of CI candidates staying in the room while everyone else is out to the group- lunch. They stayed because they wanted to keep working on their analysis assignment from me (part of the War Gaming course, CIP-II). I tried to kick them out and they said “in a minute” and when I came back 20 minutes later they were still working.

Now tell me this is a self-indulgent, entitled generation. Look at their focus, engagement, and   seriousness.

The Millennials in the CIP-I and CIP-II programs were so engaged and thrilled with the sessions, I was amazed. The older folks in the room – a few baby boomers and late age Generation X- were just as engaged, but I learned to expect it from them. No checking messages on the phone, no distraction on the laptops. Fully absorbed.

Unlike previous programs, there were fewer complaints about being “stick fetchers.” There was optimism they can become strategic with the help of the tools we teach.

Maybe they will. Things-a-changing.

Especially my respect for Millennials.