ipse se nihil scire id unum sciat

This is a Socratic paradox that translates to…

I know one thing: that I know nothing

If you haven’t heard this term already, let me introduce you to ‘Reverse Mentoring’ – it’s specifically important for companies with a workforce that spans multiple generations. If this is you, then you need to AT LEAST consider it…

Reverse mentoring refers to younger employees, mentoring older employees. Simple concept, not widely recognised…yet.

Over the next few days, weeks and months you’re going to hear the term ‘Digital Transformation’ more and more often. It’ll be a buzz word. It refers to the re-assembly of a company, to build new or grow value, revenue & efficiency through technology. Going from a business that does digital, to a digital business. It’s very customer-centric, understanding and focusing on the customer experience, leading to new; processes, business models, leadership (Chief Digital Officers for example) and platforms. Companies (like Starbucks) are doing it with the goal to not only survive disruption, but to also grow. I’ll talk about it more another time, as long as you understand the concept.

In a recent Accenture study, 52% of executives believe that technology will significantly change their industry in the near future. Other studies have also concluded that over 90% of companies (interviewed) don’t have the necessary skills required to transform or deal with technology disruption, this percentage is even higher at the executive level. It’s often the case that these decision makers are a part of the ‘digital-novices’ generation, operating in a digital world.

Here lies one of the core problems. Leaders are aware their industries will be disrupted, but they don’t have the skills to make strategic digital-business choices.

To fix this, we need to empower and educate the people. ONE way to do this is through reverse mentoring. Companies like GE and Mastercard have adopted the practise, with mixed degrees of success. The goal of the program is to unite the digital natives with the digital novices, with a desired outcome of fostering understanding, create mutual empathy and promote collaboration.

You can imagine the usual problems of the program; intimidation, embarrassment and frustration are the first that come to mind. However, the program does warrant consideration in the transformation process toolset. At least a trial.

Lee Colan at Inc. provides these tips to factor in if you’re thinking about giving it a test.

  1. Create and maintain an attitude of openness to the experience.
  2. Dissolve the barriers of status, power and position.
  3. Commit the necessary time.
  4. Have a game plan and goal.
  5. Define rules of engagement.
  6. Actively listen.
  7. Be patient.

I believe for reverse mentoring to work, we’ll need to test the parameters a bit more, and learn what methods and modalities drive the best outcomes. Regardless of if it’s a practice you take up or not, it’s always worth remembering one is never too old to learn, and as Plato concluded, wisdom is knowing that you don’t know everything. So, keep an open mind.

PLUG: Tzu & Co. do offer executive training of digital transformation.