Monday, April 23, 2012
Do Older Entrepreneurs Have an Edge?
Marc Freedman, author of The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife, has published an interesting blog post over at Harvard Business Review. The post is titled, "Why Older Entrepreneurs Have an Edge." The article cites research indicating that many entrepreneurs are older than we might think:
The findings reinforce consistent research from the Kauffman Foundation, which shows that for 11 of the 15 years between 1996 and 2010, Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 had the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity of any age group. The National Journal reports that 9 of the nation's 15 million small-business owners were born before 1965.
Freedman does acknowledge, though, that many of these new start-ups are sole proprietorships or very small businesses. Still, he points to research showing that certain kinds of creativity and innovation do increase later in life. Freedman points to the work of University of Chicago economist David Galenson. His research distinguishes between "conceptual geniuses" and "experimental geniuses." The former produce breakthrough insights, and they tend to do so early in life. The latter refine their ideas through trial and error over time, and they tend to come up with their innovations much later in life. Experimentation and refinement take time.
I like the blog post, but I really do think the focus on physical age is not critical. The most important factor driving whether you can be a successful entrepreneur is your mindset, not your age. Are you open to new ideas? Are you willing to take risks and try new things? Are you always learning? Do you engage in disciplined experimentation? These kinds of questions determine whether you have the mindset to be a successful entrepreneur, whether you are 25 or 65 years of age.