Dominic Basulto’s 2012 article in the Washington Post (Why Baby Boomers Are the Innovators of the Future) discusses the shift occurring in the world of entrepreneurship. Much of the article focuses on what we’ve discussed here before (Ageless), such as the Kauffman Foundation’s findings about the rapidly rising rate of entrepreneurship among the 55–64 age group.
The article doesn’t discuss how women specifically are one of the fastest growing groups of entrepreneurs, or that the Kauffman study found that people 55–64 have the most successful startups of any age group. Both of these trends are key to making sense of the study in ways that we can apply to our future.
The reason I’m writing about this article at all is that it raises a new potential angle on these trends. Basulto points out that boomers are poised to turn the tables and become leaders in innovation—which has traditionally been associated with youth.
This isn’t so much a reflection of older generations suddenly becoming more creative than older generations in the past or younger generations less so. Circumstances are simply changing. Younger generations are faced with less time and disposable income than ever before, with innovation taking a backseat to the day-to-day necessities of finding a job (or jobs), paying the rent, affording food, etc. Boomers on the other hand have more disposable income and time than younger generations as well as an increasing connection to the world of ideas and trends via social media and the Internet as a whole.
Time, income, experience, and successful businesses through which they can act on their ideas provides the boomer generation with an unprecedented opportunity to quite literally reinvent the world around them.
But first, all of us over 50 need to change our mindset about what it means to be growing older, to get rid of the outdated stereotypes and stop seeing our future as a sequence of mandatory retirements—from work, from the world, from relevance.
Now is the time to take advantage of these changing currents and to listen to and act on our inner visionary voices, to let loose the ideas and let them flow out and change the world.
We are the innovators we’ve been waiting for.
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