To see if a company is innovative, check out CEO’s age

shield-223326_640The story:

According to NPR, MIT researchers looked at innovation in companies, measured by number of patents and the importance of the patents (the more important it is, the more it is cited). They found a strong correlation to the age of the CEO: “The younger the CEO, the larger the number of these disruptive innovations.”

Why is that?

“It could have something to do with the culture at companies. Companies with a very hierarchical structure are less likely to appoint young leaders, and so age might actually be a proxy for the culture at the companies. also said it may be that young managers might think differently about existing products and technologies at a company,” NPR’s social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam said. 

HOW analysis:

 In understanding the way business and society is heading, it is more important to look at trendlines over headlines. The trend, according to this study, seems to be either that the younger generations get something about leadership that allows the space for more disruptive innovation (they are more weaned from traditional ‘business as usual’ and thus have fewer habits and mindsets to unlearn), or that having young faces in leadership is a good proxy for the lack of formal hierarchy in an organization. Either way, it seems that how a business embraces young leadership – the millennial generation – will impact its level of innovation.

The fact is, however, that “68% of corporate recruiters say that it is difficult for their organizations to manage millennials,” partly because companies are trying to manage millennials like they would manage anyone else. But what that statistic seems to show is that “if you try to manage millennials the way you manage everyone else,” such as imposing rigid policies and bureaucratic processes that constrain people’s ability to do their jobs, “it is bound to be challenging.”  Giving them more freedom in the workplace might be a good way to get started towards cultivating millennial leaders.

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