3 reasons you’re never too old to innovate

Updated: Dec 19, 2020

A few years ago I was looking for a new job when a recruiter called to tell me that I was ‘the’ perfect person for a role he was looking to fill. It was for a global company, one that was expanding quickly, and would benefit from my experience as a global rewards leader. Great, I said, feel free to submit my resume.


What happened next surprised and bewildered me, for a day later the recruiter called back to say that the company didn’t want to interview me because I was, and I quote, “too old to be innovative”.


“Are you sure they read my entire resume?” I said, “Reading all of the innovative programs I’ve put in place and the awards my teams and I have won over the last 20+ years I’ve worked in HR?”

“Yes” he said apologetically, “I tried to point this out to them, but they wouldn’t budge. They want someone young and innovative.”


I share this story because I never want this to happen to anyone, regardless of their age or any other differing characteristic.  


So, for my part I’ve gone out to the ‘King of Innovation’, Dominic Price, Work Futurist at Atlassian, asking him, why he thinks innovation has no age limits”? Here are Dom’s three responses to this question:


1. Innovation is a mindset not an age.

As long as you’re a fully-formed adult, you’re well capable of being innovative.  

Read Dom’s blog which tells you the 5 signs that you’re working with a fully-formed adult.


My thoughts: Agree, we should not assume that just because you’re young you are innovative, or on the flip side that because you are old you are wise.  It’s up the individual, and as Dom says, their mindset.


2. Innovation is about admitting you’re wrong.

The growth mindset enables us to think about the upside of exploration and experimentation. But to truly value that, you have to admit that your idea by yourself will never be as good as a cognitively diverse set of people working together. That diversity and sparring feels like a tax at first, but turns into an investment as you listen to the ideas and challenge of the people around you.


My thoughts: Agree, innovative doesn’t just require, but it demands diversity of thought. And you’ll never get this if you sit in a room with like-minded or same age people.


3. Tenure does NOT = initiative.

Read Dom’s blog where he talks about this and don’t miss the interesting comments at the end.

My thoughts: Agree, innovation can and will come from anyone as long as they keep their skills and mind fresh.


My husband, an ace developer is a perfect example of this, as he spends more time than anyone I know making sure he is up-to-date on anything and everything.

“It is time that we stop thinking about this demographic (older workers) as a liability and instead recognize them as assets, and work across sectors to help break down barriers to unleash their potential.”  Thomas Schøtt, Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Southern Denmark.

So in ending, if the person who failed to see the innovation in me is reading this, let me tell you that you missed out.  For I’ve continued to put in place innovative programs and I’ve even co-written a book on innovative thought called ‘Build it. A rebel playbook for employee engagement’. Not bad for an old and experienced lady!


Looking for more tips on how to bring innovation into your workplace, helping your diverse teams come up with brilliant ideas faster?  Here’s a link to Atlassian’s play to help you with this.  Thanks Dom!

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