This is a dangerous, dangerous idea

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.

This proverb perpetuates two dangerous ideas:

1. That learning is the domain of the “young”; and
2. Those who are “old” are doomed to be stuck in their ways.

We are being impacted by ageing populations, investment into life extension & accelerating tech advancement. The future of work requires a talent pool that continuously learns and adapts. In that context, this idea sidelines a whole generation; a talent pool rich with experience and so much to offer. By perpetuating this proverb, we inadvertently stereotype and dismiss the abilities of a whole demographic. And apparently, so I’ve heard, there’s a war for talent.

If we agree that diverse teams make better decisions and perform better as a whole, doesn’t that mean it is important to have generational diversity as well? Won’t that round out an otherwise homogeneous team?

What about the myriad “older” avid-learners which debunk this myth. Aren’t our presidents meant to be seasoned? Don’t older people who continue to study, keep refreshed and stimulated live longer and prosper (and the community with them)? What do we even classify as old anymore? 33? 83? My dad pioneered an aerial firefighting operation at 69 years old – it’s now in its 21st year of operation and he is turning 90 years old. Carol Dweck who pioneered “Mindset” is 70 years old.

I believe it is important to decouple age with traits, and watch our stereotypes because we could be missing the opportunity to leverage someone’s talents, realise their potential and inadvertently signal to them that they are less valued.

You’re never too old, and it’s never too late, to try something new.

This includes shifting your mindset – and learning new tricks.

I’d love to know what you think. Do you agree or challenge?

Follow me on twitter (@kat_dunn_01) and ideapod (@katdunn)

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