The Week: Best of the blogs - Fortune favours the old

When I look back on 20 years at Ogilvy, of all the stuff I have learned, perhaps 70 per cent has been from people around ten years or more older than me.

Drayton Bird, Steve Harrison, Randy Haunfelder, Jeremy Bullmore, Steve Henry, Gerry Moira and John Steel. (I would mention more women, but since I look ten years older than I really am, they probably would not thank me for it).

Now this seems quite a startling example of the Pareto principle: if you gain 70 per cent of what you learn from perhaps 4 per cent of the people, patently older people have a value that goes far beyond what they bring to their individual work.

Why don't we appreciate this more? And keep more people after 40, even as they get a bit pricier?

Essentially, there is a very simple explanation. Payment by the hour. This encourages you to reward people not in proportion to how valuable they are, but how saleable they are to a client. Since a client with a job does not see any immediate benefit from the wider contribution of wiser heads to the culture of the agency, he won't pay for it. This eroded an old group-heads system, which helped knowledge trickle down from one generation to the next.

The single best ingredient to a successful pitch is a 50:50 mix of age groups. The kind of mix of experience and enthusiasm that is often unacceptable to the client's procurement department once you win the business.