I may be shooting myself in the foot here by spreading this around, but word has it that the best innovators aren’t Millennials.
Many companies have been trying to create a younger work force, gently (or not so gently) encouraging older employees to retire and leave. The belief is that innovation comes from the newbies, especially when it comes to computers, or anything having to do with technology in general. However, there’s proof that the top innovators are actually in the “older” crowd. The New York Times published an article the other day, “Why Innovators Get Better with Age” citing the the average age of successful innovators (Nobel Peace Prize Winners, Poet Laureates, etc) is 38 and that, on average, someone has more innovation potential at 65 than at 25.
The reason for this is probably a matter of experience. While young people may have inspiration, they usually don’t have the experience, the resources, or the leadership to spearhead an innovative project. On the other hand, an employee who has been with an agency for several years and has general experience in the field will be more likely to come up with a ground-breaking idea and be able to put the idea into motion.
That said, this doesn’t mean that younger employees do not have any innovative potential. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. Some of the most influential innovators of the last 50 years have been young: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, etc. And sometimes, older leaders can get too excited over new technology and run away with it. For example, a head administrator at a large county hospital on Long Island, NY recently suggested to the other administrators that they should replace e-mail entirely with social media because it was supposedly the way trends in communication were going. This of course was quickly shot down by the flabbergasted CIO.
If anything, the combination of Millennials, Baby Boomers and everything in between will lead to the greatest innovation, especially with things like social media. The lack of experience in younger employees can lead to thinking outside of the box, while the experiences of older employees will help guide new projects to fill an existing need in new and profound ways.
How can Millennials, Gen Xer’s, Y2Ks and Baby Boomers (etc) work together?
How do you think agencies can nurture innovative collaboration with younger and older employees?