Elderly people create innovation—An innovation starts with problem awareness

Aug. 14, 2019 [No.65-2019]

Professor Hiroyuki FUJIMURA
Faculty of Business Administration
Hosei University

Employment of Elderly Persons in Japan (3)
Elderly people create innovation—An innovation starts with problem awareness.

Companies need innovation to stay competitive. Innovation usually means creating new technologies and systems; it is considered to be carried out by young and middle-aged people. However, another form of innovation is to change combination of existing things. In this field, elderly people can play an extensive role.

The starting point of innovation is to be aware of problems and inconveniences we face. New products and services are created when people find something that does not go well or when they wish to see something in a better way. With the increase in elderly people, what may have not been problems in the past may surface as problems now. Elderly people themselves are first to recognise those problems. Therefore, if those who can notice changes—namely, elderly people—aren't among employees, a company may overlook a source of innovation.

If an inconvenience is found, make a team that comes up with a solution to that problem. It is more effective to organize such a team with a mix of young, middle-aged, and elderly personnel. Elderly people can provide vast information based on their long work experience and history. On the other hand, young and middle-aged people are more familiar with new technologies. New knowledge will be created by means of these different age groups who take part in discussions.

For example, when a new problem happens, it is hard for young people to find out appropriate solutions. Elderly people could understand reasons of the problem through analyzing their experiences. In this moments, the elderly try to explain it to younger colleagues in order to make clear the reasons. Articulating what they want to say, the elderly should choose their words wisely, and show specific examples. Thereupon, the team members may come across a new discovery from their discussion. I believe readers of this article have experiences that ambiguous things become clear through discussions with colleagues. It is important to create this kind of situation in a company.

Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.