Mentoring gathering pace

Aside

Mentoring Conference illustrates the many different roles that mentors play
The interplay of minds is perhaps the essence of mentoring, but up-to-date experience is of increasing importance in a fast-changing world.

The government launched a compaign for mentoring with a great fanfare in 2012, so this first conference of the Association of Business Mentors is something of a milestone in the progress of mentoring. The point was well made that mentoring is experiencing rapid growth, and becoming more professional, with rising standards and the first signs of institutionalisation (ie the appearance of mentoring organisations.) Far less pervasive than in the United States, it has a long way to go.

Finding a mentor is often provoked by a need that is felt but cannot be met by any other means. Discussions illustrated that it is seen as an enduring and personal one-to-one role (like that of Prince Charles and Laurens van der Post), in which the kind of relationship is of the essence: as providing an opportunity
• to discuss one’s private thoughts;
• to consider one’s aims, objectives and progress;
• to work through a particular issue;
• to get a different perspective (eg longer term/more holistic)
• to help in identifying problems or opportunities;
• to reveal unseen factors;
• to get a better understanding of oneself;
• to gain inspiration;
• to affirm one’s commitment.
So it is unsurprising that people often choose people they know well for these roles; and any intermediary needs to know both parties well or risk a mismatch.

For more specific issues, such as advice on a business function, objective or technology, or about the marketability of a proposal, nothing can replace up-to-date knowledge (your mentor needs to know about the latest in Google Analytics, Crowdfunding or 3D printing, as he or she does if the business or the industry is going through a specific phase eg a period of great change or rapid growth.)

The conference was mainly about helping self-employed mentors to develop their business. For most mentoring roles, depth of experience that a second career implies is an essential qualification. Sessions were about identifying one’s mentoring strengths, defining one’s roles, getting more clients and enhancing one’s business processes. While many see mentoring as something that has its own rewards and payment is not among them, Jonathan Pfahl of the Rockstar Mentoring Group urged us with great gusto to treat it as an entrepreneurial young business.

Organisations that aim to provide mentors often have great difficulty in enabling those mentors to establish satisfactory ongoing relationships with their mentees: making a good match is evidently very difficult. Experience, background and expertise can be matched easily enough, but understanding motives, needs and feelings is more elusive. For many people, their mentors play an enduring role; but for some people, mentoring needs change with circumstances and with moods, and some organisations like Accelerators YCombinator and Techstars (and more rarely some people) are able to provide different mentors to meet those changing needs.

Mentoring clearly has an important role in a fast-changing world, and conferences like this one can help in advancing its cause, especially in terms of mentoring skills and mentor-matching.

John Whatmore
February 2015

See also at ‘Applied Creativity’ http://johnwhatmore.com:

(1) I am a fly on the wall at an Accelerator’s Mentor Day
The day provided the programme’s entrepreneurs a free-form opportunity to meet mentors and for them to learn something about each other. It suggested to me five different mentor roles. http://wp.me/p3beJt-8N Sept 2014

(2) I interview the ‘best mentor’ in Startupbootcamp’s FinTech Accelerator
In and out frequently, he steadily evolved his role by offering the wealth and breadth of experience of a life-time’s work in a top bank – clarifying progress and problems, acting as a sounding board, offering experienced insights, and marshalling help. http://wp.me/p3beJt-9P Dec 2014

(3) ‘Mentor Managers’ can work miracles for startups
Above all else, early-stage ventures need their hands holding in their new adventures, but they have no idea about whose hands to hold. Mentor Managers can help them by finding experienced and expert mentors. http://wp.me/p3beJt-9R Jan 2015

(4) Mentoring: great benefits, but considerable problems
The benefits and the problems are well recognised. Several different routes are evolving, and four distinct approaches to the managing of mentors have different benefits and different problems. http://wp.me/p3beJt-9E Dec 2014

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A flurry of specialised Accelerators

Aside

A flurry of specialised accelerators – in partnerships with leading organisations Accelerators are increasingly being targeted at special sectors. Set up in partnership with leading organisations – in fintech, fashion, communications, the arts, traveltech, future cities, restaurants, grocery and ‘ideas’ – they provide expert support to their entrepreneurs. Nottingham’s BioCity offers a model for clusters, catapults, incubators, science parks and innovation catalysts alike.

Both Accenture and Startupbootcamp have recently run Accelerator programmes in Fintech, for up to ten teams – drawn from worldwide, each programme under the auspices of groups of banks – Accenture’s at Level39 at Canary Wharf, and Startupbootcamp’s at the Rainmaking Loft.

The Trampery’s Fashion Lab, in partnership with the London College of Fashion, is designed to support early-stage fashion designers as they innovate their business, products and services as well as providing expert guidance in the fields of finance, legal, manufacturing and marketing.

Publicis, in collaboration with the Trampery, has developed an initiative called ‘Publicis Drugstore’ around a new innovation facility in the heart of London’s Tech City, available to all Publicis clients, to help multinationals and high-growth enterprises work together to spearhead innovation and change. It consists of a suite of services and products from ‘supper clubs’ and ‘meet the makers’ workshops, through coding classes and hackathons to fully managed incubator programmes.

Fish Island Labs is a small short-term workspace in a remote part of East London set up by the Trampery in partnership with the Barbican for a community of some thirty emerging practitioners in different disciplines – artists, technologists and designers – to work creatively together and with new technologies, enabling them to cross boundaries.

The Trampery’s Traveltech Lab is a new, a well-designed working environment in central London that provides a global springboard for startups working in travel, tourism, hospitality and events. They will be supported in looking for investment, alpha customers, promotion or resellers, with privileged access to senior industry executives, investors, mentors and media through London & Partners network; and regular socials and events bringing leading figures in to offer advice and inspiration.

Level39 recently launched its Cognicity Challenge – seeking applications from smart cities technology companies in its quest for ‘the city of the future’, whose the first two streams are about Sustainable Buildings and Integrated Transportation. From the applicants to each stream, six startups are to be selected to enter 12-week accelerators and work with leading technology companies and Canary Wharf Group teams to develop new smart city solutions, the winner receiving a £50,000 cash prize and the opportunity to pilot their solutions in the ongoing development of Canary Wharf and create a showcase connected city.

Kitchenette is a 12-week pop-up Accelerator that aims to coach people who are looking to start a restaurant. Pop-ups like Street food, market stalls and Supper clubs provide opportunities to develop your product ahead of any full-scale launch, and the programme includes a residence at the Kitchenette restaurant in Ladroke Grove. Participants have mentors including advisers from among existing restauranteurs, property developers and investors.

In partnership with Bathtub 2 Boardroom, the Grocery Accelerator is another similar approach – just launched, for brands in food and drink with hi-growth potential. The six month programme (non-residential) includes close mentoring and coaching from industry experts, with input from Ocado, senior buyers and specialists in branding, product development, logistics and finance, with the bonus of a three day trip to the States’ largest food fair (New York).

Second Home Accelerator at Brick Lane, is a startup community primarily about creative agencies, fashion, design, art and finance, whose common theme might be ‘ideas’, which is what Rohan Silva, its creater and founder of Tech City, is best known for. Big companies, he says, want to be next to small ones, to be close to innovation. Second Home is equipped to a high spec because startups should not have to endure the ‘crappiest digs’ when ‘Google is spending £1bn on its new HQ in Kings Cross as a beacon for talent.’

Last year, BioCity, a Biocience incubator in Nottingham, set up a novel Accelerator in partnership with Nottingham City Council under the government’s Cities Programme, which sought to bring together issues in local clusters with people who had viable ideas and to help them to develop those ideas over a period, some of which might end up in BioCity – an aggregation of partners that should inspire other cities and their clusters. http://wp.me/p3beJt-8A

See also in Applied Creativity (http://johnwhatmore.com):

Stories from the front line: what Startups value most in Accelerators What they got out of Office Hours, group lunches, others on the programme, their first meeting with mentors, mentor slots and other events. http://wp.me/p3beJt-a7 Feb 2015

I interview the ‘best mentor’ in Startupbootcamp’s FinTech Accelerator In and out frequently, he steadily evolved his role by offering the wealth and breadth of experience of a life-time’s work in a top bank – clarifying progress and problems, acting as a sounding board, offering experienced insights, and marshalling help. http://wp.me/p3beJt-9P Dec 2014

Good Incubation: the craft of supporting early-stage social ventures
Models, methods and types of venture, together with some views about the future.
www.nesta.org.uk/publications/good-incubation April 2014

Making it big: Suggested strategies for scaling social innovations
An analysis of destinations, routes and strategies, together with some stories.
www.nesta.org.uk/…/making-it-big-strategies-scaling-social-innovations
July, 2014

Stories from the front line

Aside

Stories from the front line: what Startups value most in Accelerators
What they get out of ‘Office Hours’, group lunches, others on the programme, their first meeting with mentors, mentor slots and other events.

Short periods of intensive development for a small number of carefully selected teams are turning ideas into marketable propositions: ‘Accelerators’ bring these teams together to work alongside one another, and they provide structured support and a wealth of mentors. I asked some Startups what was their magic.

“The weekly session with the Accelerator staff [known as ‘Office hours’], who always asked you:
What have you achieved in the last week?
What are you planning to do next?
What is stopping you?
What have you learned?
This forced you for example to think about what were the bottlenecks; and sometimes they would offer answers, and sometimes not.

“Monday’s group lunches were valuable – where each team had five minutes in which to give an update about their project; followed by a speaker – often an entrepreneur who talked about his or her own experience in developing their project.

“Talking to other people on the programme – people who were working beside me, or who were working with a similar technology but a different system (there was one who was one or two years ahead of me in terms of stage of development), or who were working in the same field and with interesting technologies.

“Mentor meetings were extremely valuable. At the initial speed-dating meeting, the mentors were in groups of two, three or four, and each team had five to ten minutes to present their project – to each group of mentors, and then got responses, advice or contacts from each mentor – exhausting but great!

“On offer were two or three slots with mentors most weeks. They gave us advice, contacts and evaluation. One told us how to approach one potential user, who to talk to, what to say and how to say what we had to tell them. Another introduced me to someone who in turn introduced me to the business development manager in a potential user organisation.

[There is now a different approach: a weekly meeting of staff considers the current mentoring needs of teams, and potential matches from the mentor bank, all or most of whose members are known to someone in the staff team.
Mentors are now divided into those whose contribution can be expected to relate to a single problem and those who are longer-term contributors; and those whose main experience is in investment join the teams for ‘Office hours’ only in the final third of the programme.]

“Every Tuesday a different ‘mentor’ would give a talk about their special interest: design, social impact, investment, marketing, pricing etc – the most valuable of these for me was marketing.

The comments are from meetings I had with participants in a Bethnal Green Ventures Accelerator programme in 2013. I would very much like to hear others’ experience about what they got out of Accelerators (mailto:john.whatmore@btinternet.com).

See also at ‘Applied Creativity’ http://johnwhatmore.com:

I interview the ‘best mentor’ in Startupbootcamp’s FinTech Accelerator
In and out frequently, he steadily evolved his role by offering the wealth and breadth of experience of a life-time’s work in a top bank – clarifying progress and problems, acting as a sounding board, offering experienced insights, and marshalling help. http://wp.me/p3beJt-9P Dec 2014

I am a fly on the wall at an Accelerator’s Mentor Day
The day provided the programme’s entrepreneurs a free-form opportunity to meet mentors and for them to learn something about each other. It suggested to me five different mentor roles. http://wp.me/p3beJt-8N Sept 2014

Three pieces of Pixie Dust: Bethnal Green Ventures ‘accelerates’ six new social enterprises
Pervasive mentoring, proximity (to one another – getting people to interact on their own terms) and pressure to deliver – but all created by a leader with empathy, experience and contacts – with top people who have ‘done it before’ http://wp.me/p3beJt-2i Sept 2012

Good Incubation: the craft of supporting early-stage [social] ventures
Models, methods and types of venture, together with some views about the future.
www.nesta.org.uk/publications/good-incubation April 2014

Ideas from across boundaries

Aside

Ideas from across boundaries
Ideas that inspire radical innovations often come from quite different fields.
A meeting at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory will bring together innovators in Healthcare and Motor Sports – to explore their use of real-time data.

Health monitoring and motor sport currently have a common interest – in making use of real-time data from multiple sources. A novel cross-industry partnering and innovation event will take place at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory on 24 March with the help of experience in F1 (see below for details). The focus will be on remote monitoring, data acquisition, better analytics and ease of use. Keynote speakers Include Magna, Leica Biosystems, Siemens Healthcare and the Williams F1 racing team.

With the never-ending segmentation of technologies, the need for cross-boundary links is becoming ever more vital. The Innocentive website is a classic approach – in which problems are posted, and it is from other fields that solutions commonly arrive. Open Innovation (P&G) is one source of such links, art and business another (Watershed, Bristol), innovation workshops a third (BT Labs) and partnerships between designers and technologists (Dyson) another.

Increasing life spans and longer independent living mean that holistic health-monitoring can be a valuable asset to health services; but making effective use of the data is, at least at present, more of an art than a science.

Events like this one at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory with leading-edge practitioners in motor sport and healthcare can help to inspire enduring cross-boundary links. (Maclaren once helped cardiac surgeons at Great Ormond Street Hospital to reduce the risks involved with changing the feed-lines when patients were handed over from Surgery to Intensive Care – by virtue of their expertise in the pit stop. See also ‘ideas via Intermediaries’ – below)

What is needed to encourage the use of real-time data, whether for domestic or public applications, is examples of systems management that are not merely intriguing, but have got real sex appeal; energy management or traffic management don’t have the appeal that F1 does!

If you are wrestling with a difficult problem, join me in this opportunity for thinking up sources that might inspire you with innovative ideas.

For full details of the event, contact gugs@lifesciences-healthcare.com

Ideas via Intermediaries – stories of different perspectives
Including how British Airways used a specialist operating theatre design company to enhance cleanliness in its planes; and another airline used the pit stop as a model for its baggage handling systems
(http://wp.me/p3beJt-9X)

The Internet of Thingummies – my worst Christmas dream
I assembled all my devices and told them that I was giving them all the boot! (http://wp.me/p3beJt-a1)

John Whatmore
February 2015