Let’s Change Aging to Sage’ing

Let’s Change Aging to Sage’ing

The rise of digital technology has helped create the tightly held perception that innovation and youth are inseparable. Some great ideas have certainly come from young minds – Facebook is an obvious example – but the generalization that you have to be young to be competitive and productive in the new economy does not hold up to scrutiny.

Reliable research actually indicates that our creativity increases as we crest our middle years. Older entrepreneurs also have the benefit of experience and heightened empathy, just as their imaginations ripen. So, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that, as professionals, our most productive years are well ahead of us.

Financial expert Whitney Johnson, a colleague and friend, makes a great case here in this entertaining piece, backed up with loads of concrete and anecdotal data, that innovation is not exclusively a young person’s game. In fact, older entrepreneurs might be better at it because they are more psychologically predisposed to build and create, and are more likely to have the confidence to act on those urges.

Furthermore, as we get older, we are more likely to innovate in altruistic ways. Think of it as a latent, nurturing instinct. It makes sense. As we age, we start to think about our legacies and want to invest more in the future and the people we will leave behind.

Employers tend to have a bias that favors the “young and hungry,” which tells me we are passing up a valuable and under-utilized resource, all those older creatives.

The prevailing sentiment among the other executives in my Vistage peer advisory group, seems to support Whitney’s point. To borrow a phrase from one of them, “aging” is really “sage’ing.”

Young entrepreneurs certainly have strengths too, as well as older ones. But, in all of our myth-making about startups and disruptive technology we have probably overemphasized and idealized the former, while underemphasizing and ignoring the latter.  Perhaps it’s a good time to separate what we think about aging from what we know.

When you say aging, think sage’ing.

John Christianson
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