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The Innovator's Dilemma Sure Isn't Aging

  • Blog Post by: Eric Schubert
  • April 4, 2013 - 11:44 AM

 

In 1965, 24 percent of the country’s 65+ population had graduated from high school, and only 5 percent had at least a bachelor's degree.  Today about 80% of the U.S.'s older population is comprised of high school graduates or more, and about 25 percent has a bachelor's degree or more.  Aging is changing.

Tom Agan's piece “Why Innovators Get Better With Age,” says the most common image of an innovator is that of a kid developing a great idea in a garage, a dorm room or a makeshift office.”  (Think Zuckerberg, Gates, Jobs, Wozniak and now Nick D’Aloisio, the 17-year-old genius who just sold his news-reading app to Yahoo for a reported $30 million.)

But these examples are the exception, not the rule.

As Vivek Wadhwa writes in the MIT’s Technology Review story Innovation Without Age LimitsIdeas are dime a dozen. The value comes from translating ideas into inventions and inventions into successful ventures. To do this, you have to collaborate with others, obtain financing, understand markets, price products, develop distribution channels, and deal with rejection and failure. In other words, you need business and management skills and maturity. These come with education, experience, and age.

According to Kauffman Foundation data, the highest rate of U.S. entrepreneurship has shifted to the 55–64 age group, with people over 55 almost twice as likely to found successful companies than those between 20 and 34.  Yes, part of that increase likely comes from older workers being downsized as many companies shift to younger (cheaper) workers. But it also comes from people who are better educated, more secure in who they are, hungry to learn, more experienced, and know how to work with others to get things done.

Minnesota has the most educated, most accomplished older populace in its history.  What an opportunity for our state's future.

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