Mentorship is dead. Well, perhaps in the traditional sense. The traditional idea of mentorship has gotten fuzzy thanks to the rapid advancement of technology. We seem to be conditioned that older means wiser or always right…but does that still hold true today?

Reverse Mentoring the Inversion of Expertise

Retired four-star general Stanley McChrystal agrees that this legacy thinking of mentorship falls flat today. While leading during a time of crisis, Stanley was forced to adopt a new perspective of mentorship. He said it best in his TED talk… “It produced something which I call an inversion of expertise because we had so many changes at the lower levels in technology and tactics and whatnot that suddenly the things we grew up doing weren’t what the force was doing anymore. So how does a leader stay credible and legitimate when you haven’t done what the people you’re leading are doing? It’s a brand-new leadership challenge, and it forced me to become a lot more transparent, a lot more willing to listen, and a lot more willing to be reversed-mentored.”

Each generation brings with them strengths shaped by their unique circumstances. Today’s younger generations carry a very unique and high-demand skill set and knowledge that has not been possessed by previous generations at that age. Reverse mentoring is focused on getting help from someone younger who has more knowledge and experience in a particular area (technology, social media, etc.).

Reverse mentoring cemented it’s place in culture as more and more Millennials became what is often called the “Household CTO” as parents began consulting their children for guidance using computers, texting, and setting up a Facebook account.

A Reverse Mentoring Example

In the spring of 2012, Babson College kicked-off a five-week series of seminars that were developed and taught by students instead of faculty. Babson College was interested in offering courses that were more relevant to the real world because faculty didn’t have expertise in topics ranging from iPhone or iPad app development to the food truck industry. The college stresses the importance of achieving “cognitively ambidextrous” or “effortlessly bilingual” and with 96% of Babson graduates finding a job, it seems to be working.

Benefits of Reverse Mentoring

  • Knowledge Transfer. Entering into cross generational relationships allows for specific knowledge and experience to be passed on to the younger generation.
  • Increased Millennial Retention. Reverse mentoring provides the opportunity to contribute and have an impact that Millennials desire.
  • Compound Growth. Both parties get equally equipped. Millennials want insights that Google can’t give them. Non-Millennials will benefit by understanding what’s next.
  • Fresh Perspectives. Young mentors can offer insights into their target market, help define a brand voice via social media, or provide advice on digital best practices.

How To Find A Millennial To Reverse Mentor

  • Search LinkedIn for the relevant skills or industry you’re looking for mentorship in.
  • Tap into a young professional association or employee group.
  • Contact the career center or faculty/staff at a local college or university.

Everybody has something to learn from somebody. Mentorship will never be the same and nor will you…should you choose to reverse.

Question: Have you committed to reverse mentoring? Why or why not?