Will You Flip for Peter Sheahan?

When was the last time you learned something useful from someone a couple of decades younger than you? Overcoming age bias is all in a day’s work for Peter Sheahan, a consultant and author of a book about Generation Y.

Sheahan, a 28-year-old expert on workforce trends and generational change, says that he has consulted for Google, Apple, Coca Cola, Harley Davidson and News Corp. among others.

His latest tome is called Flip – How to Turn Everything You Know On Its Head – and Succeed Beyond Your Wildest Imaginings. The over-the-top title is typical of non-fiction books these days. Unlike Sheahan, I’m not trying to exceed my wildest imaginings – I’m angling for meeting my goals.

At first blush, Sheahan, an Australian, reminds me more than a little bit of Timothy Ferriss (Four Hour Work Week), except that he seems more interested in branding others than himself. Writing about Generation Y led him to consult about workforce trends for corporate clients, even sitting on boards in his early 20s.

He skipped college, but learned on his own and from others. “I’m not formally educated,” he says. “I would read maybe 100 books a year and speak at maybe 150 conferences a year.”

Sheahan speaks knowledgeably about the tightening of global labor markets and advises corporations how to attract and retain Gen Y workers. “It’s the global market that drives talent,” he says. “In Shanghai they need 75,000 qualified managers but there’s only a local supply of 5000.  Think how competitive it’s going to be for that talent.”

Sheahan is a proponent of “rational choice theory,” which he says drives us to “make decisions based on incentives and disincentives, pain and pleasure.  Today new research says all decisions are made emotionally but we use cognitive abilities to rationalize emotionally. Getting a job is no different. Career decisions are made on brand truth.”

In Flip, Sheahan highlights successful examples of counter-intuitive business strategy, companies he calls “Flipstars,” such as Nintendo. In the face of increasingly more sophisticated technology applied to gaming systems, Nintendo responded to its rivals Microsoft and Sony by simplifying its gaming platform – the Wii.

There’s a lot of useful advice in Flip, but I found these points his most illustratrative:

  • Style is substance
  • Fashion is function
  • Feelings are the most important facts
  • The soft stuff is the hardest stuff, and the hardest to get right

I wonder whether Sheahan will become as popular on the Net as Ferriss – guru du jour on work/life balance and (what used to be called) self-actualization. I’m intrigued by Sheahan’s take on global workforce trends, generations, leadership and business innovation. Will his ideas turn you into a flipstar?