Thought trails

I’ve riffed before about virtual mentorship, and it resonated again today. We were getting a tour of one of the social platforms, organized as many are around tasks, questions, and dialog. While implicitly it could support tracking a group’s progress, separate thoughts as recorded through blogs and tweets aren’t a natural feature. Yes, there’s integration with wikis and blogging tools, but it’s not quite the same. And seeing these meme tracks or thought trails can be a valuable way to understand how someone thinks in context, which can develop others’ thinking.

Don’t get me wrong, task oriented discussions are the real new opportunity for business, but I’m looking at a separate level that’s also valuable. The 70/20/10 model that Charles Jennings so effectively promotes (on the job, mentor/coaching, formal, respectively), suggests that mentorship is a valuable component of overall development. What if we could make it lower overhead for higher impact?

The notion is that learners ‘follow’ potential leaders. They can do for external thought leaders by reading their blog and following their tweets. But there are more immediate people also worth being mentored by. What if employees could follow their bosses and executives within the organization? Transparency is valuable, and if these leaders can be convinced to share their thoughts, more folks can take advantage of them without needing specific meetings (and, of course, making those meetings more valuable). Naturally, other representations could also be valuable: if they record thoughts while driving, podcasts could be ok too, or recorded video messages (tho’ perhaps harder to edit). Even recording meetings where leaders speak could be a low-overhead mechanism.

The tough part, really, is getting the leaders to share their thoughts. Making it a recommendation, and making it easy is important. Sharing the value of reflecting is also important (people who take time to reflect outperform those who don’t, despite corporate mythology to the contrary). You also have to make it ‘safe’, so that mistakes can be shared and learned from.

The goal is to make thinking visible; leading out loud. It might seem onerous, but the outcomes of better communication and developing potential new leaders are big. What do you think are the potential benefits of more people knowing what is important? What if more people could start thinking strategically? These are on the table, and potentially on tap. Are you missing this opportunity?