If you had the choice between exploring a cave alone with no flashlight and exploring a cave with an experienced guide who carried a torch, which would you choose? Alone in the dark, you might still be able to use sound and touch to make it through the cave, but you would be doing a lot of guesswork. Clearly, it would be an easier (and more enjoyable!) journey with a guide.
How does a good mentorship program benefit newbies and the “been there, done that” crowd? It:
Drives Better Results
The most significant effect of a solid mentorship program is better results, and we all want those! The guidance and advice given throughout the process make innovation leaders more efficient and effective in their work. They are able to avoid a lot of skinned knees when they have a guide lighting the path.
Builds the Individual
Like the Silicon Valley entrepreneur, the innovation leader should be growing and learning with each new initiative. Startup investors would never hand over their cash without knowing that the entrepreneur has the right coaches to help her succeed, so why wouldn’t companies make that same investment in their leaders? Innovation must be viewed as a system or process that can always be improved, rather than a bunch of individual projects.
Sustains the Organization
Just as mentors can help support the success of the individual, they can also promote the organization’s success by capturing and retaining the institutional knowledge gained through its series of successes and failures.
The innovation leaders who are drawn to this work oftentimes have very similar attributes to that of the entrepreneur. They are action-oriented individuals willing to take risks, and they have a low tolerance for bureaucracy and wasted time. These individuals have high turnover rates due to their personalities, an organization’s lack of planning or clarity regarding future opportunities, or both. As these risk takers move in and out of organizations, it can be the role of the mentor to capture the lessons learned and prepare the next generation of innovation leaders.