Abhijit BhaduriGuest Author

Make a Digital Native as Your Reverse Mentor

By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist

The artist Pablo Picasso said, “It takes a long time to become young.” Getting mentored by someone YOUNGER may be the easiest way to stay fresh. Why is it so hard to learn from someone younger? Picasso may have an answer to that.

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Over the years, we develop our own worldview. We develop our own thumb rules and heuristics. When these rules prove to be useful, we cast them in stone. When the world experiences a titanic shift, it is time to seek help to update ourselves. A mentor can make a tremendous difference. Usually we think of a mentor as someone older and more experienced.

What if the mentor is much younger and has very limited experienced? In a world where old rules have been abandoned, a reverse mentor may be just what the experienced leaders need. A reverse mentor can help us remain an artist once we grow up.

New business priorities

McKinsey defined these as priorities for leadership. The challenge lies in doing these not as five initiatives but to weave each one of them in the business.

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Read more: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/what-matters-most-five-priorities-for-ceos-in-the-next-normal

The new consumer

Look at the distribution of Internet Users in India by age. Which age group do the decision makers in your organisation represent.

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Technology is changing everything from how we live and work. In India two-third of the internet users are under 30 years. Any company that does not actively build the voice of this group of employees and consumers is missing the opportunity.

Read more: https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/en-apac/marketing-strategies/search/digital-consumers-2021/

NFT, Metaverse, Digital Landgrab…

The pandemic changed everything. In 2021, 58% of consumers are buying online up from 34% in 2020 according. Happn, one of the most popular apps in India has more than 28 million users, in cities like Nagpur, Surat, Ludhiana, and Agra in its top 20 cities. We have multiple generations in the workforce and their needs are different. Terms like “meme stock”, “NFT” and “metaverse” are moving mainstream.

Nike filed trademark applications last week that indicate it wants to sell digital versions of its sneakers, clothing and other goods stamped with its swoosh logo in virtual worlds, such as videogames or other online platforms. This is a world where the digital natives have an advantage over other generations.

Read more: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/11/02/nike-is-quietly-preparing-for-the-metaverse-.html

The trend of unboxing a product and sharing it on social media is a huge opportunity. Doing it wrong can unbox a PR nightmare as Chanel discovered recently. It is clearly a generational gap in the marketing department!

Read more: https://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/chanels-advent-calendar-is-a-pr-nightmare-before-christmas/

The policy-maker’s disadvantage

In organisations, policy makers are often the farthest removed from the people who are impacted by the policies. The hiring teams that go to a campus have people who were students years (if not decades) ago. Working with employees who were students a year back can be a powerful way to build a Campus-Hiring program.

Senior managers often have access to a separate room and multiple devices and high speed internet. Yet, they are the ones making policies about working from home. Watch this video to discover how definitions of “me time” or the number of breaks vary sharply across work cohorts.

Whether it is designing products or creating policies, the person must walk in the other person’s shoes.

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Digital Natives as Reverse Mentors

As everything becomes digital, it is important for decision makers of the organisation to understand the rapidly evolving digital world. Web 1.0 was about passive consumption of information. Web 2.0 offered us interactivity. Web 3.0 will be all about immersive experiences. Picasso was right. It takes a long time to become young – unless you have a mentor who is a digital native.

Read more: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/metaverse-workplace-abhijit-bhaduri/

1. From retail to MEtail

A web address is called a URL and that is shorthand for the online world. IRL is short for In Real Life ie the physical world. When commerce moved online, URL used to mimic buying behaviour IRL. Now eCommerce has its own language with search engines, comparison shopping, influencers, aggregators, reviews, videos and more that shapes buying behaviour. Everything is individualised. It is no longer retail. I call it MEtail. It is retail aimed at just me. Individualisation as a trend is already leaving employers foxed.

Read more https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/just-like-that/individualisation-the-future-2/

Lynda Gratton describes why it is getting so hard to retain and recruit talent. My Sketchnote summarises it

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2. Digital land grab

Virtual land is becoming as much of an investment as physical land. The trading volume of NFTs reached $10.67 billion in the third quarter of this year. Tokens.com Corp, a Canadian investment firm focused on crypto assets closed on the “largest metaverse land acquisition in history” through its subsidiary Metaverse Group, whose real estate portfolio spans several different virtual worlds and is reportedly worth “in excess of seven figures.” <read more>


Why it is so hard to learn from someone younger

99% of conferences still bring on speakers who have decades of experience. 99% of boards (unless the company is started by a 19 year old) still have men betting the company’s future in a world that they are not as familiar with.

True story. In 2014, a bunch of summer interns at soft drinks giant were asked to share their idea about ‘the next big thing’. One of them suggested that soft drinks giant should move to sponsoring eSports. The decision makers passed on the opportunity. In 2021, gaming—consistently reported as a roughly $175B industry—stands as the largest media category by revenue. Gaming today is larger than the global music, film, and on-demand entertainment sectors combined. Think of the billions this CPG giant missed.

Read more: https://www.bitkraft.vc/gaming-industry-market-size/

Two qualities that experienced leaders must have

When an experienced leader signs up with someone less experienced, the one with more years is the one being tested. Two qualities that are constantly tested are:

  1. Humility – knowing that there is much more you do not know that what you know. You are willing to concede, you could be wrong.
  2. Curiosity- listening to someone who challenges your opinions fearlessly. You actively want to know if what you believed all along is wrong.

I asked my readers what makes it hard to learn from someone younger. That is why humility and curiosity matter in getting the relationship to work.

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Reverse Mentoring is a Two Stage Process

Step 1: Learning a new language When an immigrant lands up in a new country, their existence depends on learning the ways of working of their adapted country. The CEO finds it easy to learn about the new markets they need to conquer. When we learn a new language, we do not question its grammar. We learn the language with an open mind. There is a strong motivation to learn because success depends on knowing this.

Step 2: Improving what one knows already

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“To keep up with their changing audience, Southwest Airlines rebranded in 2014.” This sentence has a grammatical error. If you are like me, I read and then read it again, but found no error. But there is a rule of grammar that has been flouted. Ask a grammar nazi to explain it.

It is hard to improve what we believe we know really well. Writers get upset at editors who keep pointing out grammatical errors.

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Ideas you can implement

  1. Invite the hires from the campus to run a session every month on the trends they have observed. Some of the things they are doing will be major business opportunities soon. Use your experience to prioritise which trends show promise.
  2. In meetings, let the experts or the seniors be the last to speak about their ideas. Better still ask team members to first share their opinion/ ideas in writing, anonymously. There are lots of electronic tools that you can use.
  3. Encourage leaders to get a mentor who is at least two levels junior or from a different academic discipline. Working together on a business problem and then discussing the options and possibilities is a great way to build a reverse mentoring program.

Picasso was right. It is easy to be born an artist. It is really hard for an adult to stay and artist.

I would love to learn from your views on Reverse Mentoring. Do leave them in the comments below. Thanks

Republished with permission and originally published at Abhijit Bhaduri’s LinkedIn

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