On the way home from Paris, I was reading the kind of article that I tend to find irritating. A lot of articles about metrics and examples of success or how to get it in the corporate world tend to irritate me because they bastardize ideas by highlighting only the most opportunistic facets of what are already watered down justifications for corporate behavior.
But that rant aside, this article was suggesting that the next big thing for creating a successful institution out of a company is a mentoring culture. It was particularly irritating because it's an idea that I've brushed with myself while considering what would make a better educational process, and what I see in corporate culture is nothing like this.
Forgetting most of what the article said, I revisted my thinking on mentoring and tried to refigure what it was that was so much more useful about a mentoring relationship, in my mind. Now that I think about it, it wasn't a very well developed idea at first. I think the main thing I was thinking about was that over time I've found that learning specific skills was never really what I needed to have done throughout my life. I sort of had been rutted into thinking like that from the regimented way that education was presented to me (in subjects and levels of skill). Ironically, this was a very successful method for me, but it was in the success that I think caused what I consider the most glaring omission from my own growth process. The validation of my own ideas and top put it tritely, learning how to think for myself. Not that I think that mentors are the end-all solution to helping you find your own path to self-identification and the subsequent self-motivated path to living a fulfilled life. Not that I even think that validating my own ideas before I was proven or skilled enough to deal with them would be the own answer here (as now it seems clear that the benefit of something really only becomes available after the lack of it).
Still, I try to figure out what would be the best mentoring relationship and I characterize it as the type of relationship where one can have their own specific questions identified and clarified without having to have some best practice applied to solving their problems (which I suppose is contrary to the whole idea of an institution alltogether). The mentor would give an example to follow from his own life while making use of the growing skills of the mentee.
And as if this idea wasn't problematic enough already, how does one then address the problem of getting the mentee to think for himself. Let's say the mentor takes the apprentice on and shows him the nature of his specific interest by enlisting his help in completing a project of his. How does the mentee see anything besides what the mentor shows him. It's a necessary example to have but the most common consequence will not be the mentee seeing how his interests can fit in with the greater picture, but how his skills can fit in with the picture that his mentor has painted. It comes with the territory of the novice not to be excited by the prospect of learning whether his skills fit his position, but with the prospect of seeing how he can help.
Which I figure brings us back to the drawing board.
Furthermore, once a mentor finally figures out what it is that he thinks he needs to do to impart the appropriate level of experience and guidance onto his mentee, he will no longer be the effective enthusiastic teacher that could relate to the students' interest in making the relationship work. It will hold less and less mystery for the person if he is not a natural teacher. The overall ambition of having a ubiquitous program where the valuable information that anyone has (not just that of qualified instructors) can be available will be further away.
Which leads me to think that maybe mentoring is not the way and basically what everyone should do is chronicle their passion and the only institutions should be libraries. Or rather the only instructors should be librarians who have powerful access to google and the explanation abilities of the best kindergarten teachers.
The idea that mentors would eventually lose interest (or evolve their interests beyond what is immediately useful to the mentee) is similar to another idea I had about how long a business should last. At some point, the obstacles to accomplish evolve and they're no longer about pleasing the customer. Every business wants to continue to acheive, but often they get to the point of profitability or supporting a successful product and goals evolve into something else.
And what makes it worse is when those businesses are handed down into hands that were not the founders' Standing on the shoulders of giants has always seemed like a dangerous prospect to me (ever since Jeff Goldblum said it in Jurassic Park) and it happens every day, watering down our industry and hurting the development of people by giving them something in a skewed state.
Theres a strong cry coming from inside me that says all businesses should go away when they leave the hands of their founders. Not just for the prideful reasons that used to be responsible for this idea, but because I genuinely think that it would make for a more thoughtful and fulfilled society. It would probably serve justice and fight crime as well.
Unfortunately, this post has become an essay, and a poorly organized one at that. The main thing I wanted to say was the mentoring in corporate culture is a probably a sham and that we should tear down most institutions so that people can all experience the purpose of building them up.