LAS VEGAS—For anyone still trying to figure out millennials, Mike Walsh has some words that may—or may not—be comforting.

"Millennials are no longer as important as they once were," said Walsh, CEO of Tomorrow, a global consulting firm that helps design companies for the 21st century.

"They're not special because they're not unusual anymore. They're the vast majority of the population," he told a session at the 2018 NRECA Directors Conference.

"When you think about the future of your cooperatives, this is the time, in 2018, to be thinking about 2030—what we need to put in place to reinvent, to reimagine, to redesign," said Walsh, whose clients include a number of Fortune 500 firms.

"So if you want to understand the next generation of consumers—the people who will be your members in 2030—who do you have to look at? Actually, the most terrifying people in the world today: 8-year-olds."

Walsh was only partially joking. Because when he asked directors what they do these days to keep a screaming child happy, the answer was fairly unanimous: Hand them technology.

"Ninety percent of 2-year-olds in this country can use an iPad," said Walsh.

And when they grow up they'll be different from any co-op member you've ever seen.

"The consumers of tomorrow will expect you to anticipate what they want and predict their needs," said Walsh. He noted that online giant Amazon already does this, using algorithms to determine what consumers will want, when they'll want it, and where they'll be, so that fulfillment centers are ready.

But those millennials can still be helpful. Walsh recommends talking to the young employees at your co-op to hear their ideas on how to better serve members. And he suggests that the next time you hire someone fresh out of school, "pay attention" to see "what exactly is it they find strange about the way you and your colleagues work, the way you make decisions, the way you use technology."

"The only way to really transform is to not just change your technology," said Walsh, "but to transform your organization."

Additional coverage of the 2018 NRECA Directors Conference:

Why Your Board Needs Succession Planning Today
Why Even a Small Co-op is a Big Target for Cyber Crooks
Why Social Media Really Matters for Your Co-op
Be Member Focused, Carson Tells Directors
Matheson Highlights Three Advocacy Roles of Co-op Directors