Managing innovation is a complex and challenging task, and takes more than technical knowledge and skill. It requires insight, tenacity, intuition, creativity and acumen, all of which are developed and honed through experience and over time.
A very helpful way of developing these qualities is by tapping into the experience of others who have already done the things you are aspiring to achieve. There is a wealth of talent in the business community willing to offer support and advice to innovators and growing firms. This capacity can be harnessed through a mentoring relationship in which one or more mentors provide ongoing guidance in a formal structure.
What is a mentor?
In Greek mythology, Mentor was an old friend of Odysseus, advanced in age, whom Odysseus placed in charge of his son, Telemachus, when he left for the Trojan War. Mentor provided the son with knowledge and friendship to guide him in the absence of his father. This is the source of the modern use of the word mentor as a trusted friend, advisor or teacher, usually a more experienced person.
Today, mentors provide their expertise to less experienced individuals in order to help them advance their ideas, grow their business, and build their networks. You can benefit from being part of a mentoring relationship, because a mentor is a person who:
- Holds you accountable – by sharing your goals with your mentor, you allow them question you and prompt you if you do not complete actions within agreed timelines or if you get off track
- Helps you refine your ideas into practice - you will be able to discuss and evaluate your great ideas with someone with the experience to help you refine them and implement them
- Brings new ideas to grow your business – a good mentor will be able to share experiences, expand your knowledge and educate you so that you understand the principles and can apply them again in the future
- Introduces you to the contacts you need - your mentor has contacts they can share with you and knows where to find the information you need, whether it be for equipment, investment advice, or just growing your library
- Brings an external view - your mentor is on the outside looking in and is able to give you feedback and help you take a fresh look at your ideas and your business.