The Paradox of the Youthful Thought Process

May 11, 2017

A Youthful Thought Process

It’s good to be the king. And while we’d all like to be at the top of whatever pyramids are important to us, for young people there’s something special happening. Youthful Thought Process seems to be all about that.

That’s not a bad thing. A youthful thought process, lacking in certain elements of studied insight, is what drives innovation. Entrepreneurs do better when they maintain a youthful thought process. But when youth isn’t tempered by wisdom, the energy that drives youthful thought process can become a problem.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, a guy who achieved immense success at a very young age, figured this out. When Zuck hired Sheryl Sandberg to be Facebook’s COO he admitted she was there to serve as adult supervision. WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg hired a CEO when he was in his twenties, stating out loud that no-one under the age of thirty should be one. Zuckerberg thrived, and then some. Mullenweg, despite WordPress’ amazing market penetration, not so much.

What’s up with the Youthful Thought Process?

I’ve written here about the differences between youthful and more mature intelligence several times. While older workers cost more and can be too set in their ways, they bring a wisdom that youth simply cannot possess.

But let’s not make this story about whether older people are smarter than younger ones. Even though there’s proof. Let’s talk about the reason younger and older people look so strange to each other.

The Youthful Thought Process

One of my clients is very young. Most of the folks who hire us are between 35 and 50, and this guy won’t be 30 for a few years.  The young man is very successful, and smart as a whip.

He’s so smart that he hired The Answer Guy to help grow his business (it could have been some other old guy; this isn’t one of my famous self-promotional statements). And although he isn’t, the things he needs to get under control—mostly growth and process related—are typical.

And because he’s still using The Youthful Thought Process he’s having a hard time changing them. Even after they’ve been identified. That process looks something like this:

  1. Wow, we’re killing it!
  2. If we want this amazing growth to continue we need to get the way we share information under control
  3. Yeah, we do. Have the secretary add a piece of software
  4. We need to make sure that works with our other systems
  5. Of course it will work. She’s smart, and we’re killing it!

Imagine that statements 2 and 4 are coming from me. Eliminate them. Read 1 through 5 in order. See the problem?

Success is the name of the game in business. Growth matters. Assuming you know how to manage growth you want it to happen, every quarter and every year. But growth running outside your ability to manage every part of it can sink your business. And it’s the management of arcane details that’s alien to the Youthful Thought Process.

Of course, the energy and new ideas of youth are what drives growth.

Full Stop. Take a breath. You know, like an old person.

Regardless of age, your goal as a business person is to find a working point between exuberance and carefulness. And that’s where we come in. Want to talk about it?


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