Posted by: Ben | August 5, 2009

Productivity Gestation

I would like to see a well-designed infographic that tries to chart out about how long it takes for certain endeavors to become productive, on average.

The initial datapoint, I think, would be the time it takes for a person from a developed nation to reach the point where he/she is creating something genuinely new for society.  My guess would be that it falls somewhere between 30 and 40 years of age.  Calculating the time it takes to finish school, get some experience working, fail a couple times, and perhaps get more schooling (as more and more people are being forced to do now), that would put someone at least around 30 years of age before he is untethered from educational requirements or the trappings of youthful indulgence or overwhelming financial stress.

At that point, he could be expected to formulate his life’s career then, or to at least begin down that path.  Despite the hand-wringing over athletes who are minors, child prodigies, and college dropout entrepreneurs, it seems to me that overall, the really successful people are well into their 30’s that I’m most interested in.  They’ve served their time and are taking more risks.

Other datapoints I’d like to see would be similar to Gladwell’s 10,000 hours:  # of years for education policies to work, # of months for militaries to respond appropriately to new environments, # of generations to forget a culture’s devastating legacy (like 9/11), # of years before basic science investment turns into scientific renaissance, etc.

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