Are the 60+ the real source of future innovation?

In a Swedish radioprogram “Spanarna” this weekend one of the issues was about where the future innovations will come from, the young generations as usually expected or the older generations now retiring. The idea was that the young are today growing up in a more stressful situation than before. The achievers will be occupied by collecting merits and climbing ladders in an uncertain world, and few of them will actually have the time to enjoy doing things just for the sake of doing it. For the older generations, now retiring from a “full” working life, there will be plenty of time and money to pick whatever idea that pops up in their mind and do it just for the fun of it. The hypothesis is then that the plentitude of joyful engagement together with a lifetime of experience of doing things will then result in much more innovations than what the younger generations will generate.

It is really an interesting thought but I think there are relevant question marks here. Most of the people of 60+ retiring today have been working for traditional institutions and businesses for their whole life. Judging from the creative track record from the business world today, these people have been working for 40+ years in organizations which have been (and still are) horrifyingly bad at foster innovations and innovative thinking. Will they have the capability to start innovating after that or will they just engage in “therapeutic” projects just focusing on doing things. This doesn’t mean that these projects will not be valuable to society, but will be a hotbed for creativity or not?

If on the other hand they have retained the creative energy and the ideas have just been postponed for all those years, then the innovation scene will be dramatically changed during the next 10-15 years.

2 thoughts on “Are the 60+ the real source of future innovation?

  1. I think two important keywords related to this issue are “no commitment” and “voluntariness”. What I mean by that is that, having spent 40 years in the toil of fulltime employment, these gray panthers (GPs) value their freedom very highly and therefore do not want to commit their time to tasks that will consume them.
    Therefore I don’t think you will see too many traditional entrepreneurial ventures launched by this category. The fact that raising capital is extremely difficult when you are officially considered a retired person does not help.
    However, connecting this trend to your blog entry “Minipreneurs” some time ago, I think we will see a great flow of commercial activities by this group.
    Already thousands of one-person startup consultancies have appeared on their market, with experienced seniors offering qualified advise on part time basis.
    Clever GPs will be able to capitalize on their wealth of connections, experience and time to cultivate special interests, and smart companies will make use of that. Examples that I think will appear are:
    GPs offering to market/endorse quality products and services through their special interest or semi-professional networks, for a “network access” fee.
    GPs offering training and education in a variety of subjects
    GPs trading or brokering specialty items on online auction sites and similar, using their specialist knowledge
    GPs organizing guided tours to special sites and locations

  2. It it interesting that you connect innovations so strongly with commercial activities. I think we are heading in a direction where the most interesting innovations will appear in the mainly social sector and many of them without any commercial value at all in the beginning. When the new social innovation is in place, then it will be time for the commercial actors to participate (as usual).

    But, what do you think about the “joy factor” which will be a much more integrated part in GP activitiies than in the young achievers activities. Will the creativity flourish more with the GP? because of that?

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