Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

If you want change agents, hire pirates with passion

Why? Because pirates can operate when rules and safety nets break down.

[The following is an excerpt from What Would Steve Jobs Do?: How the Steve Jobs Way Can Inspire Anyone to Think Differently and Winby Peter Sander (McGraw Hill).]

“It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy.” This quote, made back in the days of the original Mac development team, says a lot about how Steve viewed people and selected them for teams. It also speaks to the kind of team and team behavior he admired. To build a team, all organizations seek the best and the brightest people, particularly for their innovation and new product development organizations–that’s not what’s in question here. By seeking out the pirates, Steve took the idea a big step further.

Why pirates?

A pirate can function without a bureaucracy. Pirates support one another and support their leader in the accomplishment of a goal. A pirate can stay creative and on task in a difficult or hostile environment. A pirate can act independently and take intelligent risks, but always within the scope of the greater vision and the needs of the greater team.

Pirates are more likely to embrace change and challenge convention. “Being aggressive, egocentric, or antisocial makes it easier to ponder ideas in solitude or challenge convention,” says Dean Keith Simonton, a University of California psychology professor and an expert on creativity. “Meanwhile, resistance to change or a willingness to give up easily can derail new initiatives.”

So Steve’s message was: if you’re bright, but you prefer the size and structure and traditions of the navy, go join IBM.

If you’re bright and think different and are willing to go for it as part of a special, unified, and unconventional team, become a pirate.

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

The new mentor is a peer

I came across this excellent article today re the value of peer mentoring:

Source: http://www.thebigidea.co.nz/news/blogs/the-creative-collide/71491-the-new-mentor-is-a-peer

To celebrate Leadership Week, Philip Patston discusses a potential trend away from young people wanting to learn from their elders, and discusses an alternative. “It’s about acknowledging that the key to human development is realizing our connections with each other, no matter who, what, where or how old.”

* * * Last weekend, while dining with colleagues, the topic of mentoring came up. Someone recounted hearing a panel discussion where young people refuted the value of having an older mentor. The reason, the young people said, was that they didn’t want old-fashioned values tainting their perspective. They felt that their ways of doing things were contemporary and innovative – why would they waste time with someone whose ideas, as far as they were concerned, were outdated and risked compromise to their entrepreneurship.

Earlier that day I had watched a video on YouTube by Aaron Moritz called,“Our Whole Society Needs a Remix,” attached below. It was applying the theory from a movie called, “Rip: A Remixer’s Manifesto,” aimed at the copyright and music industry, to society (our “cultural zeitgeist”) in general. Over dinner, I realized that the Remixer’s manifesto could also apply to mentoring.

The manifesto went like this:

1. Culture always builds on the past.

2. The past always tries to control the future.

3. Our future is becoming less free

4. To build free societies, we need to limit the control of the past.

Straight away you can see how these precepts could translate easily into a mentoring context:

1. The skills and experience of young people always build on that of the older generation (or the mentor).

2. The mentor always tries to control the future.

3. Our future is becoming less free

4. To build free thinking and behaviour, we need to limit the control of the mentor.

Having been a professional mentor in the past I’ve become wary of the tyranny of assumed expertise. While I’ve wanted to share my experience, I remained uncomfortably aware that the young people I was mentoring – as did I at their age – had experience that was rawer, less developed perhaps, but equally as valid and valuable as my own. Indeed I have learnt from those I have mentored.

Most good mentors would agree, I’m sure, that learning in the mentoring relationship is a two way street. I think though that this is not conveyed to the mentee through the “brand” of mentoring – it seems to carry the “top-down” quality of a younger, less competent party reaping the benefits of the wisdom and experience of an older party.

So I came away from dinner reaffirmed – for the second time that day – of the place of peer support in the creative and educational landscape.

At Diversityworks we designed our Peer Support Network (www.dpsn.net.nz) to encourage “shared support and learning in a social environment”.

Our homepage says, “Peer support is a loosely structured way of getting support and, in exchange, being there for other people. It aims to create bonds and bridges between people with unique and common experiences, changing how people relate to each other.”

I think peer support is the new mentoring.

It opens up the possibility of learning from anybody and being the learned to anybody, greatly increasing the benefit of sharing experience through synergetic relationships. It’s about acknowledging that the key to human development is realizing our connections with each other, no matter who, what, where or how old. Think of it as leading while being led.

What do you think? Is there still a place for the older, wiser, more experienced teaching the newbie? Or do you agree that we can all benefit from the teachings of the naive, wide-eyed, younger generation?