Lots of businesses utilize mentors – from start-ups to the Fortune 500 and they’re using them for a variety of performance goals. They’ve found that more employees have a positive experience if they’re mentored, but business owners have even reported higher revenues and more growth if they’ve received mentoring.
So, in the age of business mentors, some customers are asking “what’s the potential value of an innovation mentor?” We see three key areas where mentors can guide and nurture not just innovators, but innovations.
Culture. If you’re looking at innovation as a matter of environment and climate, having mentors who will help test and see ideas through supports an overall innovation culture. Think of the last great idea that you had that someone took in hand and helped you experiment with and prototype. You might have to go back to elementary school – but wasn’t that teacher or mentor not just helping you, but also helping to set a tone that it was okay to try new ideas and ask for help? That’s how an innovation mentor can impact organizational culture.
Connecting Ideas. We hear more and more often that the most original and transformative ideas are actually the most networked and well-connected ones. An innovation mentor doesn’t need to think of great ideas, they need to be thinking of connections that they can facilitate and similarities that they can draw. In fact, the practice of combining ideas might be one of the most disruptive plays that an organization can make.
Assembling Resources. Innovation mentors are like VC funders or angel investors to intrapreneurs. Maybe they’re not directly funding an initiative (although sometimes they might be), but they’re helping them find the budget, head count, or talent that’s necessary to test and grow a new idea. This is most important in the implementation phase and is sometimes the difference between a great new line of business and a dead idea.