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Why Britain needs a mentoring eco-system for entrepreneurs

January 11, 2012

Joining up the dots

In No Straight Lines some of the dot joining I do is based upon how participatory cultures can really enable increased capability in teams and organisations when knowledge is shared intensively.

Part of this is achieved through mentoring – in the book I describe the challenge we face in creating more start-ups / more companies and explain the quality of these organisations is not entirely defined by how much capital they raise – it is more defined by how they perceive their business and execute. By looking at a number of participatory learning eco-systems which live online and offline, and are sometimes combinations of the two – we can identify an important pattern.

This process works.

Peer-to-peer entrepreneurial learning

The mentoring programme that I was engaged with Springboard- offers a mechanism whereby it is connecting entrepreneurial startups with a vast array of businessmen and women who collectively carry something very valuable *intellectual capital*. Releasing that capital is what is going to fuel the innovation we need.

It is at the moment a drop in the ocean – however, the research conducted through NSL demonstrates that peer-to-peer learning through mentoring consistently delivers.

Why we need a national mentoring eco-system

Moreover, one could argue that entrepreneurship, the very commercial lifeline for this country, is being held back by a dysfunctional ecosystem and mindset. We just don’t have a big enough, and dynamic enough, vibrant academic, innovative, commercial, entrepreneurial ecosystem, within the European Union. This is a view that is supported by Stanford Professor Burton Lee, a specialist on European entrepreneurship and innovation, as well as people such as Will Hutton, from The Work Foundation.

The problem that sits at the heart of this is that there is no joined-up thinking, no national means to share current or hard-won knowledge, or a designed process providing access to these mentors who represent this extraordinary pool of talent and wisdom that are able to get entrepreneurs to accelerate their thinking to better develop and build their companies. That benefit would bring commercial success, resulting in job creation, inward investment and real regional economic development.

As Jon Bradford founder of Springboard writes

The knowledge and know-how generated from success and failure builds a stronger ecosystem. Imagine it as a pruning of ideas; the creation of a fertile “entrepreneurial compost heap” and the recycling of expertise being dug back into new ideas, helping them to germinate, take root and grow back stronger.

Consider this: in the UK only three regions provide a net benefit to the exchequer, all other regions are a cost. Of course there are complex reasons for this; however, the goal should be that all regions move from a cost minus to a cost plus. To help this along we need a national mentoring programme that exists as a platform and a process that is sustainable, and only increases its value as more individuals and organisations become part of that eco-system. Even Business Week argued that Mentors matter more than money.

If there is 1 thing Government should to do – it needs to invest in a nationwide entrepreneurial mentoring programme – the rest will take care of itself.

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Further reading:

The NEXT Silicon Valley is not a place its a platform

Trust and the free exchange of ideas fuels sustainable economies

The Rise of the Human-OS

Connect to Springboard

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