Who Advises Innovators?

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Leaderonomics

04-06-2014

2 min read

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Innovators are often perceived as individuals who work alone and have created breakthrough products or services out of a spark of genius.

While the latter is true, the former is not. They do have mentors who have pushed them to greatness in one way or another. What if I told you that the great innovators Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Jack Dorsey all have had mentors behind them?

This is an actual fact but while we look at the mentors behind these great innovators, there are some key learning principles which innovators today can learn from finding a mentor for themselves. If you are an innovator, here is what you need to do:

1. Find a mentor who will push you out of your comfort zone

Jobs met Robert Friedland when he wanted to sell Friedland a typewriter and they become friends long enough to effect a serious change in Jobs’ attitude and working methods. According to Jobs, “He turned me on to a different level of consciousness”.

Jobs was an introvert and Friedland was a charismatic and forceful person who could bend people and situations to his will. Friedland pulled Jobs out of his shell and turned him into a more open and extroverted personality.

According to mentorpolis.com, Jobs was essentially an open-minded thinker and thus this trust with Friedland allowed him to express his brilliant ideas openly and without hesitation. The world is now thankful for the fact that Jobs became what he was, thus underlining the importance of a mentor who can push you out of your comfort zone.

2. Find a mentor who can help you realise your dreams

According to Stanford history, Frederick Terman, a Stanford professor, encouraged Bill Hewlett and David Packard to establish a little electronics company in Palo Alto Garage in 1939, which was later dubbed “the birthplace of Silicon Valley”. Terman brought a list of 25 potential customers for Hewlett and Packard’s first creation, an audio oscillator.

The fact that Hewlett and Packard were able to channel the brilliance of Terman to create one of the largest consumer PC makers in the world shows the importance of mentorship in realising dreams.

Speaking of computers, even Gates had a mentor. Dr. Ed Roberts was the creator of a kit computer called the Altair 8800, which Gates calls the first personal computer even before Apple 1 or any other personal computer. Gates and his partner Paul Allen found a way to load BASIC on the computer in 1975, which helped computer hobbyists programme and operate Altair.

The encouragement and mental stimulation achieved by this mentorship confirmed Microsoft would become a company that would be capable of developing new bridges in the world of technology.

3. Find a mentor who will challenge you to be greater!

Dorsey is known for creating Twitter and Square (a mobile payment system). However Dorsey had a mentor who challenged him constantly to think big.

For six months, Ray Chambers had consistently met with and mentored Dorsey. From Chambers, Dorsey learned to think bigger and better.

“At the core of his being, he really wants to make the world a better place,” Chambers had said about Dorsey.

Chambers made his fortune via a private equity firm that he co-founded and currently serves as United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Financing the Health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and for Malaria, but he comments that his greatest success is Dorsey.

In conclusion, if you are an aspiring innovator, take heart and know that you don’t have to be alone; you can and must have a mentor, because even the “greats” had one.

So start looking for a mentor using the above principles and start innovating to make the world a better place because that is what any mentor would want in the first place!

Raj Kumar is the vice president of Global Consulting for UCSI Blue Ocean Strategy Regional Centre and is passionate about Strategy and Innovation. You can follow him on Twitter @rajkumar77

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