No Image Available

Seb Anthony

Read more from Seb Anthony

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Are you over the innovation hill?


Being in your 50s may mean you bring wisdom to the table, but do you still have plenty of fresh ideas? Keren Smedley argues that entering middle age doesn't mean an end to your ability to innovate.

Do we lose our creative ability when we hit 50? It’s a question that bothers many of us as we hit middle age. We all know that some of us do lose our mental alertness as we age but, at its most extreme, that can be due to illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and Vascular Dementia. It’s also true that our brain cells are continuously dying but it isn’t until our 80s or 90s that this may have an effect on our mental faculties. Even then, it isn’t a given.

What is creativity?

First, let’s define creativity. To my mind, it’s the production of new ideas, concepts, associations or connections of information in an innovative manner. It’s a type of thinking that occurs in one part of our brain. The Herrmann® Thinking Preferences is a metaphoric model of how the brain operates. Created by Ned Herrmann, he combined the Triune Brain model of Paul McLean, which divides the brain into the outer rational cerebellum, the middle limbic, (more emotional part) and the reptilian, (more instinctive part) with the Left/Right Brain Hemisphere Theory of Roger Sperry, to form a model of the human brain with four quarters.

Two halves form the cerebral system, two halves the limbic system. The four quadrants are A-logical, B-organised, C-interpersonal, and D-imaginative. Ned Herrmann’s theory is based on the fact that there’s likely to be one or more dominant quadrants which become our habitual way of thinking and to which we revert when under stress but we are all capable of any of these types of thinking.

"None of us are immune from listening to negative messages. If we’re continuously told that we’ll lose this skill as we age, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy."

The four quadrants

Quadrant A is concerned with intellectual processing which is structured and systematic. If you have a predisposition for this quadrant, you probably tackle problem-solving in a methodical way. You’ll be interested in facts, figures, statistics and other tangibles in your thinking, and you would use supporting data or examples of precedent to back up your conclusions. This style is logical, analytical and rational; you would use it for feasibility studies, making critical assessments and any task that needs rigorous and focused thinking. You need Quadrant A for financial, mathematical and technical issues. You may dislike any emotional, woolly, unsubstantiated type of thinking.

Quadrant B is structured in a practical and procedural way. If this were your predisposition, you would be inclined towards organisation, reliability, efficiency, order and discipline. You would prioritise tasks and work in a systematic and sequential manner and you would manage time efficiently and complete your tasks on time. You would be methodical and attentive to detail and you would be skilled at operational planning and the implementation of schemes and projects. You would like administration and maintaining systems and procedures but dislike chaos and confusion and be very skilled in making order out of a situation. You may be cautious, controlled and planned; you may also tend to explain things in minute detail.

Quadrant C is concerned with emotions. Your natural bent would be towards feelings and interpersonal matters. You would tend to be attracted to people and have an ability to relate quickly and easily with others. People would be likely to tell you about themselves as you would have an innate ability to create rapport and be easy in conversation. You would use your intuition and have a feel for the answer and would often be heard to say you had a gut feeling or hunch about something. You would enjoy problem- solving but be concerned about the effect the decision would have on others. You’d probably dislike being asked to pinpoint the facts.

"It’s true that our brain cells are continuously dying but it isn’t until our 80s or 90s that this may have an effect on our mental faculties. Even then, it isn’t a given."

Quadrant D is concerned with more abstract thinking. You would often handle several thoughts at the same time. When problem-solving, you would tend to look at several aspects at the same time, creating pictures and models in your head and making spontaneous conclusions. You would tend to be a lateral thinker and be imaginative, innovative and have original ideas. You would be a creative thinker who dislikes detail and prefers thinking about the big picture. You may find it difficult or frustrating when completing tasks as you would prefer to be on to the next thing. We can all be creative thinkers. It happens when we use our ability to imagine things differently, allow ideas to flow and don’t listen to the critical voice emanating from the logical limbic quadrant telling us to think sensibly.

What makes us innovative?

The creative thinker makes new connections about relationships, extrapolates from the information given and develops something new. Those who can then turn their creative thinking into a consumer product become innovators. They are able to combine their curiosity with the ability to look deeper and around the subject. We’re not usually creative in all areas of life. For example, some may be artistically creative and be able to paint or throw a pot. Others may be creative in business and be able to put their ideas together in a new and innovative way that enhances the business. We’re all able to use this part of our brain. Some, however, are more able to express their creativity in a productive manner.

So is creative thinking for the young brain? I don’t think so. If you are naturally a creative thinker you will go on being one, whatever you age. The only thing that can put you off your stride are negative views. None of us is immune from listening to negative messages and, if we’re continuously told that we’ll lose this skill as we age, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s really important if you are older, that you ignore other comments and that you keep flexing that creative muscle!

Normal 0 false false false EN-GB X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 Keren Smedley is a the director of Experience Matters, an organisation that offers coaching workshops and consultancy for individuals and companies.

She is also a trainer and consultant specialising on issues such as the effect of redundancy on older workers; creating a harmonious intergenerational workplace; and how babyboomers can manage the pressures of caring for children, ageing parents while balancing a successful career. You can find out more at her website Normal 0 false false false EN-GB X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 Normal 0 false false false EN-GB X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!