Are Corporate Mentorships Bad for Innovation?

First, let me start with a disclaimer. We are not opposed to mentorship programs. In fact, there is plenty of evidence that they benefit both the participants and the company. However, they have some faults and I think these faults could be hindering innovation at your organization. Here are 3 reasons why corporate mentorships will not improve your innovation culture.

1. Not promoting diversity or collaboration. 

Most mentorships are formed by people who are similar to each and follow similar career paths. These 1-on-1 relationships are great at building confidence and capabilities in the next-generation leader. However, this process feels more like creating clones than promoting diversity. Innovation is best done in groups of more than 2 people who have diverse skills and insights. 

2. Passing down the old ways of working

Mentors teach from their experiences and what has worked for them in the past. But the way it used to work or the way it has always been done is often not the best for the future. Passing down the same ideas, processes, and thinking will maintain the status quo and prevent change.

3. Limited Time & Limited Opportunities

To be successful, mentors need to have time to mentor and make themselves available. But today’s leaders are busier than ever and time is at a premium. Even when leaders are available there are more people in need of mentoring than mentors available. This makes it impossible to affect the critical mass needed to make significant changes to a company’s culture.

The alternative. Look for a mentorship program that…

  1. Has both 1-on-1 mentoring but also opportunities to collaborate with people who are different from each other.
  2. Teaches new skills from experts outside your organization that they can apply to their roles. Encourages people to try new ideas and proactively solve problems in new ways.
  3. Has availability to mentor larger groups of people who together can make significant impacts at your company.