Find a Reverse Mentor

Dear, Anita,

I’ve owned my business for 34 years now, and try as I might  to keep up with all the new technology and trends, I don’t know if Facebook is still cool, if Instagram is out, or if something else is the next big thing. I understand my business has to evolve and change with times to reach new and existing customers and even to create a company where people want to be employed. Do you have any resources for keeping in step with what’s trendy?

Reverse_Mentor_000011786220Dear, Wanna Be Relevant,

You have probably  mentored your share of employees in your tenure. To mentor means to advise, guide, or train someone, especially a younger colleague. But have you heard of a reverse mentor? One of those 20-somethings in a nearby cubicle could be more “digitally mature” than you! While you may struggle with new technology and social media, these skills are second nature to Generation Y who grew up interacting with devices since they were toddlers.

Don’t be offended by the thought of being “trained” by a young whippersnapper. Large companies such as IBM, Procter & Gamble, and Time Warner have formal reverse mentoring programs that help them broaden their brands’ reach and increase revenue.

Think of it more as an exchange of ideas, with both sides receiving benefits. Maybe “reciprocal mentoring” would be a better term. Tutoring sessions should be a two-way street. While your reverse mentor may help you create an account on LinkedIn or Twitter, you may explain why his idea to tweet some inside information would have a negative impact on the company long-term. You want to be pushed outside of your comfort zone, but temper the hip, creative ideas being offered with your experience, insight, and strategic thinking.

To keep up with trends, issues, and news headlines that affect today’s businesses, subscribe to The Select Family of Staffing Company’s blog TradePost. Both mentor and mentee will find food for thought for their next session.

Readers: Have you ever been in a reciprocal mentorship? What was the most eye-opening advice you ever received from your mentor?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Building a Beneficial Brainstorm

A reader writes…

Hi Anita,

I am looking for a fresh new way to get the creative juices flowing in my team. I have tried to host a brainstorm but was not successful as I had hoped. What do I need to do to have a brainstorming session that promotes creative thinking and will be beneficial to all involved?

Hi, Brainstorm Builder!

Bringing together a group of talented individuals with unique perspectives can do wonders for your team. But in order for a brainstorm to function properly, you will want to follow this simple plan and include an assortment of key elements that will really make the sparks fly.

Put together a Dream Team. For brainstorming to work at its best, youBrainstorm are going to need the number one, most important ingredient…brains! An ideal number is 6-10 people, and to throw some interesting twists into the mix, bring in a person from a different area of expertise. For example, if you work in Marketing, invite some members of the sales team to participate in your discussions. Different perspectives bring forth new ideas!

Bring in an outside facilitator. This individual should be someone from your company, but from a different department. Many people default to appointing the manager or department head to lead a brainstorm discussion. I think it is best to avoid this approach as it can lead to shaping and guiding ideas back to the standard mold.

Escape from the ordinary location. Break away from the day-to-day scenery of the office for brainstorms. Parks and playgrounds are a great location, as well as museums and scenic outlooks. Better yet, try a location that is applicable to your brainstorm goals. If you are thinking of new ways to encourage children to eat more vegetables, why not visit a local farm or farmers market. These visuals will awaken creativity!

Define the problem and what you are trying to achieve. Once you have determined what the goal is of the brainstorm and what you hope will come out of discussion and reflection, get the wheels turning. Ask participants to begin thinking about ideas on how to solve the problem and request that they come to the table with at least 3 alternatives and solutions to share with the group.

IdeasThink outside of the box. Make it clear to your team that there are no wrong answers at the brainstorm. Encourage your staff to dream wildly and come up with solutions that may lie outside of the norm. Stir up the wild thinking and see how far they can push themselves and stretch the boundaries. If it weren’t for this kind of thinking, who knows where we would be? Imagine a world with no electricity. Airplanes. Telephones. All very scary thoughts and all way outside of the box.

Quantity, not quality. Yes…you read that right. We are looking for the most content as possible here, people. Ideas can later be sifted through and viability/quality can be determined. The more ideas you have the more you have to work with and build upon.

Build off of one another. One idea has the potential to spur hundreds of other ideas. Encourage participants to “piggy-back” off of the creativity of others.  It will help produce more ideas and help the group move forward together.

Designate a note taker. If all goes to plan, ideas will be flying left and right. Be sure to have a person whose sole purpose is to capture and record all ideas and information being discussed. You don’t want any of that creativity to slip through the cracks.

Now that you have all the ideas on paper, I suggest bringing everyone together one final time to review the ideas. As a group, discuss and then select the strongest ideas. It may take a few rounds of brainstorming to come up with the ideal solution. Once you have narrowed it down, assign follow-up activities for the ideas you have designated as contenders. You will want to set deadlines, hold your team accountable, and keep track of the progress.

See this video for some other great tips about brainstorming and some silly ideas on preserving gum…Crazy, right?

What have you found to be the best tips for brainstorming?

Sincerely,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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