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Global Commentary
Friday, 27 May 2005
Innovation and age
Topic: Science & Technology
Edward Hugh reads a working paper "Age and Great Invention" from the National Bureau of Economic Research and concludes that "there is hope for some of us yet". From the abstract of the paper:

Great achievements in knowledge are produced by older innovators today than they were a century ago... I find that innovators are much less productive at younger ages, beginning to produce major ideas 8 years later at the end of the 20th Century than they did at the beginning. Furthermore, the later start to the career is not compensated for by increasing productivity beyond early middle age... [T]he accumulation of knowledge across generations leads innovators to seek more education over time. More generally, the results show that individual innovators are productive over a narrowing span of their life cycle, a trend that reduces -- other things equal -- the aggregate output of innovators. This drop in productivity is particularly acute if innovators' raw ability is greatest when young.
Yes, there is reason to be hopeful for some -- specifically for those who might have thought they had missed the innovation boat -- but overall, the message of a narrowing productive innovation life span is not one of optimism.

On the other hand, greater knowledge accumulation through longer education means that innovators start the most productive phase of their life spans with greater innovative capacity. In addition, the information and management sciences now have a better understanding of how information is assimilated and converted into knowledge and thence, innovation.

Improvements arising from such understanding enable organisations and individual innovators to compensate for the shorter innovation life spans of the latter with more intensively productive ones.

Posted by lim_cs at 11:09 AM JST | post your comment (0) | link to this post

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