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Cycles of innovation

Scientific breakthroughs are not only made by young innovators, according to new research. In an interesting study of Nobel Prize winners by Ohio State University, two ‘life cycles of creativity’ were identified, one occurring in the mid-20s, the other in mid-50s.

Those falling into the younger age group were found to be ‘conceptual innovators’ who ‘ think outside the box’ – coming up with new ideas; while older pioneers were more ‘experimental’, with big ideas stemming from more of a trial and error evolution of understanding, developed over a longer period.

“Many people believe that creativity is exclusively associated with youth, but it really depends on what kind of creativity you’re talking about,” said Bruce Weinberg, professor of economics at The Ohio State University. “Whether you hit your creative peak early or late in your career depends on whether you have a conceptual or experimental approach. Our research suggests than when you’re most creative is less a product of the scientific field that you’re in and is more about how you approach the work you do.”

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