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Why Top Performers Have Nothing to Do With Their Ages

Why Top Performers Have Nothing to Do With Their Ages

I remember times when I was job searching, I’d see jobs that I knew I could do, and do well, yet I had no chance of getting it simply because I didn’t have the necessary years of “experience”. You might have seen the same thing.

Equally, when you turn eighteen, you are able to vote, at sixteen you are able to drive. Legally speaking, a mere 24 hours before your birthday, you weren’t equipped or experienced enough to vote or drive. We sometimes accept age equals experience.

But I’d rather be driven by a sixteen year old who drives a long distance every day, than a forty year old who only drives occasionally. I’d trust an eighteen year old who has studied the policies of each politician on the ballot to vote more responsibly than a fifty year old who votes on a whim.

I think we all would, yet we are often still blinded by the false idea of the importance of experience over anything else.

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If it’s not about the years of experiences, what are the true indicators of ability?

Imagine you’re an employer, and in front of you are two prospective employees. One is relatively young, but in their time they have overcome a number of challenges, they show drive and determination, they demonstrate good knowledge and skill, yet they haven’t worked in this industry for very long; the other is about a decade older and they’ve spent a number of years in a similar job, they have experience for sure, but very little else.

I think most of us would go with the younger employee.

Age, ultimately is a measurement of time lived, not things achieved or difficulties overcome.

Let us consider Elon Musk,[1] he is a self made billionaire, the co-founder of Paypal, the CEO of SpaceX, Tesla, and numerous other companies. Were he to have joined a tech company and waited until he had the right amount of experience, then without a doubt, he would have achieved none of this.

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Though, as you’d imagine he was an computer prodigy (at twelve he designed, programmed, and sold a video game), his life wasn’t easy. His parents divorced at an early age, and at school was bullied remorselessly. Yet, after achieving two bachelor degrees in Canada, and dropping out of a Ph.D, his success was immediate and meteoric.

In short, he overcame a great deal of personal problems, but due to his drive, passion and talent, was able to achieve great success. Success ultimately achieved without years and years in the tech industry gaining experience (indeed, he studied physics and economics in university).

It’s about how many challenges you have gone through, not how many years you have lived through.

A good employer knows these things. When looking for new team members, a good employer takes drive, passion, talent, resilience far more into account than the number of years they’ve spent in a job and certainly not the amount of years they’ve been alive for, which again is really all that age really signifies.

At Lifehack, when we recruit new team members, we are not concerned about the number of years a candidate has in the field. During a job interview, we ask candidates about their concrete experiences over the past time. For example, what have they achieved and how did they do that? What obstacles have they come across and how did they get over them?

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We’ve seen plenty of candidates who have 10 years or more work experience in the field, yet they can’t really tell us their journey of growth.

Deep down, you don’t grow with years, you grow with challenges.

I believe we need to reconsider growth and experience. You grow with things faced and battles won (or lost).

Think of your greatest accomplishments, I imagine after accomplishing them you felt stronger and more effective than you did after working at a place for a year.

Because of this, I think deciding to wait for a few years, until you start working on your dreams is potentially disastrous. If you wait for a eureka moment where your brain tells you that you’ve gained enough experience, then I’m afraid you’ll be waiting forever.

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We should begin to consider growth as something that comes from developing skills, improving your intelligence, and mindset, and not something that just sort of…happens after being alive for a while.

If you want concrete proof of your growth, don’t wait, but seek out challenges and take risks. Even if you fail, you still had the strength to try, and have the strength to try again, this matters more than any amount of experience.

Reference

[1]Biography: Elon Musk

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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