The XYZ Factor by Nancy Lublin Book Summary

The XYZ Factor, The Guide to Creating a Culture of Impact by Nancy Lublin and Alyssa Ruderman.


DoSomething’s unpretentious guidebook to engaging Gen X, Y or Z employees offers a worthwhile, commonsense approach to issues every business faces. The book reflects the enthusiastic style of younger workers, though it’s clear that you don’t need to follow their styles to enjoy the benefits the forward-thinking, innovative workplace they prefer. In important ways, this mind-set is not limited by chronological age; the “XYZ factor” is more of a philosophical mind-set enjoyed and promulgated by people of any age, including Pope Francis, 79, US first lady Michelle Obama, 51, entrepreneur and author Seth Godin, 55, and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, 73. The book showcases XYZ culture in chapters by staff members from the nonprofit, presented here by CEO Nancy Lublin and campaigns manager Alyssa Ruderman. Each chapter ends with questions you can apply to your business. “Tweetable Takeaways” offer condensed versions of some top ideas. Though written by different people, the chapters are unified, and feature a bubbly, enthusiastic conversational style. That style, like the culture it mirrors, prioritizes humanity above expertise. That’s the mind-set among members of Gens XYZ, who value both innovation and efficiency. getAbstract recommends this accessible how-to manual to executives, managers, entrepreneurs, business professors, students and anyone seeking a primer on the attitudes of truly engaged staff members.


  • The “XYZ factor” defines the mind-set enjoyed by people who embrace the principles and practices generally promulgated by members of generations X, Y and Z.
  • “XYZers” expect multiple options and choices in everything.
  • They value progressive personal improvement and thrive on giving and receiving detailed, explicit feedback – good or bad.
  • XYZers have a need for speed that offers significant benefits: They adapt fast. They don’t fear change. They prize efficiency.
  • They put every aspect of their life and work on social media.
  • As employees, XYZers seek “transparency and democracy.”
  • Firms should pay XYZ interns to attain their maximum training potential and loyalty.
  • To engage XYZ audiences, target every message to suit its media and specific customers.
  • Your media channels can deliver your highest value to your XYZ customers.
  • Your XYZ company should learn how your users spend their time when they’re not interacting with your product or service.
The XYZ Factor Book Cover

The XYZ Factor Book Summary

“The XYZ Factor”

An XYZ organization harnesses the style and energy of generations X, Y and Z in a diverse workplace that can include older workers, as well. “Intergenerational productivity” spurs innovation and helps create a forward-thinking, democratic corporate culture., the world’s leading nonprofit organization of young people working together to improve society, demonstrates various approaches to implementing the XYZ culture. DoSomething assists youth in “volunteerism and community improvement projects.” The organization employs 60 full-time and 20 part-time workers. Only 13 staffers are older than 30. The young people in the office and the organization’s respondent population – all between ages 13 and 25 – provide insight into what XYZ people, the “XYZers,” want and need in their jobs and in their organizations.

“Seven Secrets” to the XYZ Factor

XYZ is more a style than a generational limitation or identifier; Pope Francis, US first lady Michelle Obama, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and entrepreneur Seth Godin all exemplify the XYZ mind-set. They value other people and value sharing. To engage, inspire and retain Gen XYZ people, master these seven secrets:

1. “Value Choice”

XYZers like having multiple jars of peanut butter to choose among in grocery stores. They like having countless entertainment alternatives, including movies, cable channels and YouTube, along with the major networks. College students today choose among many majors or create their own. XYZers are accustomed to and expect multiple options of everything – where, when and how they work; what their jobs entail; with whom they will work, to whom they will report, what their rewards might be; and so on.

2. “Move Fast”

XYZ employees have little patience for rigorous procedures, protocols or permissions. They want decisions either green-lit or shot down immediately. They abhor waiting in lines, either for restaurants or raises. They bond quickly. As evidenced by ubiquitous, instantly available entertainment, their attention spans are brief. The tweet exemplifies their communication style: concise, to the point and without flourishes. If you talk slowly, XYZers will tune you out. If you take forever to make a decision, you will lose their respect. Their need for speed offers your business significant benefits: They adapt fast. They don’t fear change. They prize efficiency.

3. Embrace the “Nomadic”

Anyone graduating from college after 2012 will average “16 different jobs” before his or her 37th birthday. XYZers change homes, romantic partners, cities and nations. United States citizens age 18 to 34 are “the most mobile demographic” in American history. If dissatisfied, they change employers and service providers. XYZers thrive in upheaval, quickly adapting to new situations, tools and ideas. They’ll try to change anything about your company culture they dislike.

4. Provide “Measurable Feedback” to XYZ Employees

The cloud, the Internet, smartphones and various social media enable instant feedback on any action, photograph or comment. Yelp and other review sites provide a constantly updated opinion flow about pretty much everything. XYZers won’t wait for annual performance reviews. They seek out regular, dependable responses to their work. They don’t demand praise. They want to improve. But they must know that someone is paying attention and sees the value in what they do, mistakes and all. XYZers are comfortable with computers and video games, which offer and reward repeated tries as the participant blunders but learns. These workers need to know they can try again if they don’t succeed. They are accustomed to multiple attempts, and so they fear finality. They are afraid of failing. Encourage your XYZ workers to be daring. Reward their courage. Help them understand the lessons they should take away from every mistake.

5. Be “Wired”

XYZers are at home with multitasking. Studies show they can deal with several devices at once – for example, a laptop, a smartphone and headphones – running a variety of applications such as Facebook, Snapchat, text messages and a movie. Corporate cultures should grow comfortable with what appears as too much happening at once. Tech-savvy XYZers know, love and understand technology. They comprehend and create new methods and tools in an eye blink. They won’t slow down or limit their scope.

6. Be “Public”

XYZers’ ideas of privacy might shock many people: They have none. They expect to live communally or with roommates. With the Uber transportation service, for example, people use their own cars to drive strangers – a different dynamic than taking a taxi. All aspects of people’s personal lives end up on social media. Everything about their work and your corporate culture will be posted on social media and or in a cloud service. They expect work to be “fluid, shared, public. It is collaborative and live.”

7. Emulate “Summer Camp” in Your Office

A successful, productive XYZ workplace doesn’t feel like an office. An XYZ business base should have the atmosphere of summer camp. The floor layout should enable fun, with toys, lounge areas and game arcades. Anybody should be able to work anywhere. DoSomething’s office has an open-plan design to encourage connections among employees. No architect designed the workspace. Instead, a committee of employees from various departments worked out the floor plan for desks, chairs and tables, as well as the wall colors and decorative touches. If the company launches a new product or scores a win, someone bangs a large “Wu-Han gong.”

“XYZ companies create an avenue for constant and consistent feedback.”

Nothing matters more to XYZers than “transparency and democracy.” A true open floor plan enables both. DoSomething’s CEO Nancy Lublin is as visible and accessible as a summer intern. No “vertical barriers” hinder conversations and relationships. This openness fuels collaboration. Everyone can see and comment on everyone else’s work. An area for dancing and another space for naps foster a fun atmosphere. The layout features “one major lap,” a meandering path through main areas of the office, “by the gym, through the kitchen and back to the lobby.” The lap is the clearest path from one side of the office to the other and it functions as Main Street, the place where people meet unexpectedly throughout the day and stop to exchange ideas.

“To build for scale and inclusion, we work hard to craft something that is truly accessible – campaigns anyone can take on if they want to, from wherever they are.”

Because an open plan offers little privacy, every worker receives noise-cancelling headphones. Employees know not to bother people who are wearing headphones, a sign that they need to concentrate. The office also has soundproof phone booths and conference rooms. “Thinking Thursday” provides three hours of silence every week. During this time, the firm has no meetings, and no one talks. Most staffers put on their headphones. Even amid the apparent chaos, everyone understands the ebb and flow of privacy and community.

The XYZ “Pitch”

People who work for DoSomething pitch their ideas and suggestions to their colleagues. In a participatory culture, the most successful employees offer sound ideas, take ownership of them and make their ideas happen. Every Wednesday, the company holds an “Innovation Meeting” at which anyone can pitch an idea. XYZers need their moment in the sun. Give them a chance to feel like stars, and they will reward you with passion and collaboration.

“Just as you would forge a relationship in real life, you can build rapport with your member base by showing them you’ve listened to what they’ve said.”

The firm appoints “Quarterbacks” (QBs) to manage projects and implement missions. The QB operating structure enables an idea’s originator to work on all aspects of bringing it to fruition.

The “Fail Fest”

DoSomething welcomes productive failure that offers opportunities to learn. The company stages its Fail Fest once annually. Staffers – who must don a signature pink boa when their turn comes – describe their personal failures, the consequences and the lessons they learned. Listeners celebrate the experience and then dissect it. The Fail Fest teaches the theory and process of learning from failure; it is the flip side of celebrating everyone’s good ideas. The Fail Fest builds a sense of community and reminds everyone that, in DoSomething’s culture, it is safe to try and fail.

Working with Interns

DoSomething pays its interns, since its CEO believes every firm should. Paying people for their work is crucial to building a culture of trust that makes everyone feel valued. It’s also fair. Paying interns adds structure and seriousness to their jobs. It demonstrates that the firm regards them as full members of the community. At DoSomething, interns sit at a large, shared desk in the center of the office. This assures that they get to know one another while gaining entrée to everything going on in the office. They are welcome to attend any meeting.

“The first thing you have to do if you want to be an XYZ company is create a physical environment where your staff wants to spend their days and weeks.”

The firm seeks interns on LinkedIn, Idealist and university bulletin boards. DoSomething carefully selects interns who align with its culture. Passion matters more than résumés. Interns must read the company handbook and learn the firm’s policies, since violating policy is a firing offense. Interns’ exit surveys help the firm improve the internship program.

Marketing to XYZ Customers

DoSomething doesn’t spend any money on marketing. It relies on scarcity to fuel creativity and brings in up-and-coming teenagers who are YouTube stars to drive viewer numbers and membership. The firm’s target market is 13- to 25-year-olds. Young YouTube stars speak directly to that demographic, and they want to contribute to the charitable causes the firm supports.

“Our all-access office environment and culture of celebration suits extroverts – those who are energized by social connections with co-workers.”

All enterprises should own their communication channels on social media outlets and be able to disseminate their messages via “email broadcast, mobile broadcast, radio station, blog, website, TV show, store window, packaging,” and so on. Every platform has a distinct audience and your company must speak in a unique voice appropriate to that audience. A staff person who understands a channel’s needs, identity and audience should have responsibility for that platform.

“Because each platform has a unique personality, different staff members run many of our social media outlets.”

Every message on every platform must align with the platform and with your brand. Your audience must be able to get the gist of any post with a quick glance. Posts should offer value and speak in a personal, not corporate, voice. If your site draws a “super-user,” someone who shows long-term devotion and engagement, honor that user publicly to show how much you value loyalty and to build a community of super-users.

XYZ Audience Retention

To gain and keep users, understand their “pain points” and how to speak to them. Offer your solutions in the simplest form. Establish feedback loops with users to evaluate the effectiveness of your solutions. Learn your target market’s concerns. What engages them beyond what you provide? What draws your users when they aren’t using your offering? Target each media channel to suit each of your strategies. Offer a variety of ways for users to engage with you.

“It’s also a philosophical choice; we believe that having no money forces you to be creative.”

Design for your target market and your purpose. Anything you put out must align with both. The greater your understanding of your target market, the more your audience members will recognize that you are listening to them. Then they will embrace your solution more fervently. Create “engagement metrics” specifically to fulfill your intermediate goals. Metrics should measure what matters to you, be customizable for greater accuracy and serve your core objectives.

About the Authors

Nancy Lublin

Nancy Lublin, the author of Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business, is a Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute, a 2014 Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur and CEO of the nonprofit, where Alyssa Ruderman is a campaigns manager.