Older = Better Innovators?

Einstein was once quoted as stating that: “A person who has not made his great contribution to science before the age of thirty will never do so.”   In fact, he was a mere 26 years old working in an Austrian patent office when he came up with the idea of special relativity in 1905, which would ultimately change the way we think about the world.

According to an article “No, Einstein: Older people innovate, too”  there is a new report from the National Academy of Sciences that cites that while when Einstein made his big discovery, 69% of chemists, 63% of medical scientists and 60% of physicists completed Nobel prize-winning work before age 40, by the year 2000; it has since become very rare to have such a breakthrough before age 30 or 40 in these fields.   Does this mean that prize-winning discoveries have apparently become more of an old person’s game?

Another piece – in the New York Times called “Exploring the Past: Creativity in Old Age” – author Glenn Collins reports that while many older people have a pessimistic view about their potential for declining mental abilities, gerontologists argue that creativity is ageless.  Consider that “Sophocles wrote ”Oedipus at Colonus” at the age of 89, and Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes began the study of Greek at the age of 92 because, as he said, ‘When else would I have had the time to take it up?’”

In yet another report, (see Innovation Grows Among Older Workers) comes the startling revelation that “Despite stereotypes of entrepreneurs as fresh-faced youngsters, new research has found that older workers are more likely to innovate than their under-35 counterparts.”

Finally, Duke University Duke University scholar Vivek Wadhwa found from his research that “older entrepreneurs have higher success rates when they start companies. That’s because they have accumulated expertise in their technological fields, have deep knowledge of their customers’ needs, and have years of developing a network of supporters (often including financial backers).”   The Kaufmann Foundation agrees, saying that entrepreneurs between the ages of 55-64 are about TWICE as likely to be successful as entrepreneurs in the age 24-30 category!

Take that Mark Zuckerberg.



Filed under Innovation

3 responses to “Older = Better Innovators?

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  3. Pingback: Quote of the Day: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. « weareliterarycritics

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