No, I'm not talking about NFL quarterbacks. A Nobel Laureate in Physics once argued that scientists did their best work prior to the age of 40. Food for thought on the subject comes from a researcher at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management who has analyzed the relationship between age and innovation. There's plenty of anecdotal evidence that creative output peaks around the early 30s or late 20s, then gradually declines. Einstein, for example, published his Special Theory of Relativity when he was just 26. This pattern of declining creativity apparently holds for such endeavors as lyric poetry, pure math, and theoretical physics. Interestingly, it seems that the average age at which great achievements are attained has steadily risen, trending up by about eight years over the course of the last century. The big question is, how come? One factor pushing up the average age of great innovators is that Ph.D.'s now finish their academic work substantially later in life than they did a century ago. This seems to explain four years of the eight-year delay in peak performance. The thought is that it takes longer to earn a Ph.D. simply because there is more to learn. When there is a lot of fundamental knowledge to master in a given field, practitioners will probably decide to get more education rather than less. And more education tends to make people better innovators. But education comes at a price. You can't innovate when you are studying. And by studying longer, warns the NU researcher, there is a real danger that creative people are reducing the quality of output they can expect to achieve over their careers. Personally, I think other factors besides the length of the education process are delaying the point at which innovators hit their stride. Educators are good at recognizing
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