I want you to forget all that you think you know about mentoring. Forget, for a second, about the individual mentoring relationships you have formed in your life, both as a mentor and mentee. Many of these, I am sure, will have delivered significant impact, they may well be the reason you have followed a certain path, or determined the shape of your professional career.
From this article what I really want you to think about is every conversation you have ever had, every person that you have ever met, every meeting you have ever sat in on. Potentially each one of these has had the capacity to have been a mentoring experience. Each interaction you likely learned something, took away something that you might later have based a decision on. Now… I know that’s a lot, but let us extend this ‘slightly' to having access to other peoples’ experiences, what more is possible? In fact now we are here, what is not possible? That is my vision for mentorXchange.
Access to information is no longer limited, we can find almost anything on the internet (or google for that matter). We are moving rapidly into an age of misinformation, at its most advanced the threat posed by deep fake technology has serious societal implications, at a more basic level we can find ourselves in hysteria when misdiagnosing our symptoms on webMD thinking we have the disease which has the highest SEO, typically one of the nasty ones. The proliferation of this technology can undermine the trust people have in each other. SO why are peoples’ experiences so important? It comes down to trust. We trust those we have a relationship with, these connections have an influence on our behaviours, our buying patterns, our development… Need evidence?
88% of consumers place the highest level of trust in word-of-mouth recommendation from people they know. We value other people’s experience at the highest level, it changes our behaviour and lets us make more informed decisions on next steps. This is not just with buying, it is in every aspect of our lives: what we read, what we do, where we work, who we work with, the list goes on and on. We do this a lot, mostly subconsciously, with already formed personal networks. For the purposes of this article, I want you to consider how this affects your professional life, the organisation you work, where you want to be in 5 / 10 years.
We are all part of a multi-layered society, each with networks of our own we go to for knowledge and experiences. At Mex we look at it in 4 dimensions; your colleagues (people you work with), your clients (people you sell to), your collaborators (people that have similar purposes to you), and your communities (people you want to help). Within each of these dimensions, there are different experiences and capabilities. The individuals come from different backgrounds and the context of their skills and capabilities changes. For example, your colleagues will have an in-depth (or so you would hope) understanding of business requirements, they may see your capabilities in a wider picture than you yourself can see them. Your clients, are facing their own challenges, maybe at a personal level or in meeting a business challenge. Your experience in navigating these challenges might be invaluable and lead to further business down the line.
The relationships you form across these dimensions is rarely one way and experiences you learn from one network is often shared with another. Why? Because you are at the centre of it, you are part of the ecosystem where others can access the experiences you have now learnt and vice versa. My question to you is, how easily accessible is your network? How wide a network do you have? If you wanted information about a challenge, how easy for you would it be to go into one of these 4 dimensions and hook out the ideal person who could share with you their experience?
Now I want to think about organisations. As I said before, these networks already exist for individuals, it is part of business it is part of life. However, how much visibility does an organisation have over each of these dimensions. Can an organisation see an individual, the experiences they have, who they go to for guidance internally? Can they see the work they do to positively impact society? Maybe they are passionate about providing representation to females within construction or technology. Just maybe they have helped a client with a personal challenge which has stopped their business from going under. For organisations, these connections, these networks, are all about information. What impact our employees, our most valuable asset, are having within society, not necessarily just within our organisation. If there is no platform, there is no visibility. Individuals are connecting, collaborating, learning and sharing across multiple different dimensions with no data to infer from. Their access is limited, and insights are opaque. We want to digitise and structure the whole ecosystem so that mentoring can be seen, identified, quantified.
And what of the result. I want to take you back to our first paragraph on what I think mentoring is not. Mentoring is not one relationship determined to be for one outcome. Mentoring is multiple connections across multiple dimensions or networks each with the purpose to influence, guide and advise individuals to achieve a desired outcome. Each interaction, an opportunity to capture data on actionable insight. The result is individual success and business transformation. In essence, if you provide an individual with endless opportunities to succeed, your organisation will achieve limitless success.