Old Folks can be Distruptive as Well!

28 Apr

Driving back from my daily rowing this morning I listened to an NPR report about how the age of the CEO of a company can affect the future of the organization. The argument is that, according to a recent study, the older the CEO the less likely he or she is to make drastic decisions and try something new. According to the report, older CEOs become intimately involved with the organization and maintain the status quo rather than risking the future of the organization. Young entrepreneurs, on the other hand, have more of an innovative spirit and turn around operations that may have become stale. The report does caution that this assumption may not work with all organizations. That the more stable and profitable the organization the less the need for the innovative spirit.

My first reaction to the NPR report was that the assumption that older CEOs cannot be innovative does not fit me or the other 9 million older social innovators in the U.S. The main characteristics of these older innovators are what I call the three “D’s”. We are disruptive, disciplined and driven. That is certainly my case and the reason why I am no longer in the public sector. While it is true that it may take us longer to arrive at a final decision, once we do it is usually the right one as we have considered all implications and outcomes. As another of my fellow older entrepreneurs once said “You are old enough to see that something is not working and experienced enough to do something about it”.

I hope most of those listening to the NPR report have the common sense to conclude that just because research was conducted it does not necessarily mean that we must take the findings as conclusive. Much is left out of these “so called” definitive reports. In this case the 9 million and the additional 30 more million older entrepreneurs that have proven to be even more disruptive than our younger counterparts!

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