Experience is great until it is used to apply old solutions to new problems. This bias, this failure to recognize new problems, is most common in technology companies as they grow older. And it is because of this bias that in Silicon Valley, the industry of the new,  old people are less frequently successful. This is why, for example, Microsoft managed by Ballmer in his 50s performs worse than Google managed by Page in his 40s, and this is why Google is now threatened by Facebook, managed by Zuckerberg in his late 20s. I am sure that when Ballmer first saw Google he thought “another search engine” and when Page and Brin first saw Facebook they thought “another social network”.  The real challenge, as we grow older is to use experience for our benefit without losing our ability to recognize the new. Without losing the ability of being experienced but occasionally feeling “inexperienced”. Because Google was certainly a new experience to those who were searching before it.  Or Facebook was a new social experience for those who were familiar with previous social networks.  But experienced leaders failed to see this. We can’t allow experience to betray us. Experience must be balanced with a childish fascination for the new, a fascination of the kind that kept Jobs young until his premature death. Steve Jobs did know how to combine experience, with an uncanny ability to recognize the new.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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