Last Sunday (Father’s Day) and the days preceding, it was tough to avoid stories and columns about the impact that individuals’ fathers had on them. While all of the tales varied in content, there were consistent themes, the majority of them centering on how dear old dad was such a good mentor. It got me to thinking about who our mentors are when it comes to innovation and creativity.
Just about everybody in business has read the biography of Steve Jobs, who was arguably one of the greatest innovators of all time, and it underscores the fact that anybody can be a mentor—even people you’ve never met. You get to choose whose advice and philosophies you want to explore and perhaps adopt. It can even be that of a company.
While the Jobs of the world are sure bets (as well as Google and other creative organizations), you may be better off finding something different than what everybody else is following. Nothing against Jobs, but since his passing, I’ve heard at least 50 presentations about innovation that quoted him or used his principles verbatim—which means that you could be using what everybody else is using, and that ultimately isn’t very innovative.
Some people are fortunate enough to have a mentor where they work, or a family member or friend who they can rely on when it comes to getting that creative spark that ignites innovation. For others, it’s up to us to choose our mentors, or at least translate and derive lessons from the people around us. Sometimes we need to stretch.
As someone whose dad, as a coach, held the town record for being thrown out of the most Little League baseball games for arguing with umpires, I’ll chalk that record up to passionate beliefs—a trait all innovators share.