What do ABBA have in common with the Beatles, Sex Pistols and Aretha Franklin? In addition to being groundbreaking in their genre, they made their breakthroughs long before they turned thirty.
Most innovation comes early in the career. Although many musicians do their most important works later in life, they are often based on ideas that arose in their younger days. The same goes for music, art and completely different fields. Both Spotify and Apple and Facebook were founded by young people.
Anyone who wants to promote innovation and innovation needs to understand why we are more innovative during a certain period in life. There is nothing magical about youth in itself.
The reason why pioneering ideas come to young people is because we are then in a learning process. When we learn new things, the brain must create new nerve connections. This means that there is no ready-made thought pattern. We accept the new knowledge unconditionally and are open to combining it freely with previous knowledge and experience.
As we begin to master the knowledge, stronger nerve pathways are created. More experience makes us faster and more efficient. But by then we have lost much of the ability to look at knowledge in completely new ways. That is why so many new ideas arise before the learning process is over.
Of course, innovative thinking and creativity are not worth much if it is not supplemented with in-depth knowledge. But when those who are in a learning process get to take part in advanced cutting-edge knowledge, it provides the conditions for truly revolutionary ideas.
That is why the university is such a fantastic breeding ground for innovation. There, students meet teachers who are active researchers working at the research front.
Unfortunately, this is often forgotten. When it comes to innovation initiatives, the focus is on research. This applies not least to the "research and innovation" bill that the government presented at the end of 2020, where education was completely forgotten. Investing in established researchers can lead to oh so important research findings. But who should take the knowledge further into working life and completely new contexts if not the students?
"The Swedish pop wonder" can be explained by the fact that there has been a broad music school for young people and a good infrastructure for established musicians. This is how new ideas can both arise and spread.
The same way of thinking needs to characterize more sectors of society. Half a piece is lost if you invest in research without there being curious students who can pick up the ideas and use them for something completely new.
Linn Svärd, Vice Chairman
Do you want to read more about investing in innovation? Read our response to the inquiry "innovation as a driving force" here.
This text has previously been published in Dagens Industri as part of a campaign.