A lot of people who know me would agree that I am pretty single-minded when it comes to creativity. But now I am in two minds about it.
A recent study of Nobel prize-winning economists found two sweet spots in the age of researchers who win the prize. One group was in their late twenties and early thirties and tended to use a conceptual approach — out-of-the-box problem-solving. 1
The other group were in their late 50s and early 60s, but they utilised a different type of thinking, experimental creativity. This type of creativity is based on synthesising a career-worth of knowledge and experiences that are reassembled in different ways to come up with new ways of thinking and solving problems.
The authors of this study found that this same principle applied to many areas of creativity, the arts, and business.
This is not a new concept. In the 1950s, British Psychologist Raymond Cattell identified these differences in thinking types as Fluid and Crystallised intelligence. He pointed out that this is why older people make better teachers.
Further recent studies of start-ups have found that, while many more younger people are founding start-ups, the success rate of founders in their 50s and older are significantly better, based on the benefits of their life experiences.
Einstein famously said;
Imagination is more important than knowledge….
In my younger days, this was my mantra. At an extreme, if our minds are empty, we literally don’t have two pennies (for your thoughts) to rub together. Not an iota of an idea.
But now I understand that the way I approach my work, and for that matter the type of work I have chosen to do, is different as I age. This knowledge has been reassuring as I re-invent myself in a culture dominated by entrepreneurs who are half my age or less. I know I can’t compete against their seemingly bottom-less creative conceptual energy that drives their world-changing Start-UPs. However, as I explore the world of the Founder Seeker, I have an edge as I explore an experimental Finish-UP culture.
Einstein also said something along the lines that we can’t use the same thinking that got you into a problem to find a solution to that problem. In the same way, the Conceptual Thinking that a business or career was founded on, in all probability, won’t be able to provide the answers you seek as you Experiment with doing things differently in the second half of your career.
If you are also in two minds, maybe the four of us can put our heads together to crystallise your thinking.
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