Sustainable Innovation Mentoring

Day 59 Week 9 Q1  Tuesday, February 28, 2023

First, a word about mentoring in general.  

Mentoring is different from having an apprentice. Mentors do not tell people what to do. They may have wisdom, but this is not a sage-on-the-stage role. The internet has made it mostly impossible for anyone to know more than what anyone else knows. Even young people who have been exploring and investigating since they are ten or younger know many things you do not know. 

And the world is changing rapidly, so it is a new ball game every year.  As presumably you are curious and investigating much of your time, you, too, are a moving target. So the relationship is more of a present-moment relationship, which is terrific because it is and has always been the true nature of reality.

Now take this curiosity-discovery dance and exacerbate it by having the two dancing partners both be innovators. You are certainly not going to mentor someone from not being an innovator to being an innovator. All you can do is make it easier. If someone has no innovation bones in their body, you can not insert them. It has to be latent and, therefore, already present.

Innovation is a state of mind, and no, it is not common. Remember, you were both creative outliers since birth. And even though society probably did its best to beat it out of both of you, they failed because you became innovators anyway. And this stubbornness does not always make for flexibility, which is the challenge. 

The only hope for a good outcome is through mutual respect. The mentor and the mentee must respect and value each other, or their stubbornness will get in the way. This is probably true of all types of mentoring and teaching. Still, it is even more so in the innovation universe, which through natural selection, favors stubborn, intelligent, creative outliers.  This population may be fascinating, productive and original, but not always easy to get along with unless they have taken the role of the pleaser.

Sustainable innovators eventually add flexibility to their other assets in order to avoid easy-to-imagine paralyzing conflicts. Innovation is not a zero-sum game. It is not based on a scarcity mentality. It is based on harvesting infinity, not insecurely trying to take something away from others. It is about adding to the world, not about controlling the world.

Sustainable innovators, in general, learn to be charming as well as persistent and stubborn. They need more than one mode of operation to accompany their more than one mode of thinking. And if they are to be successful mentors, they need to care a lot about their mentees or else the effort is not worth it.

Additionally, they have to evolve enough security not always to be thinking about their own projects because they need to get inside the head of the person they are trying to help. And not try to put your head inside of the other person’s head. It will not fit.