Mentoring, Harvard Business Review, and the Customer Community.

Below, Alan Parson Project, Eye in the Sky

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Harvard Business Review and the Customer Community.

This morning, I was excited when I discovered that Harvard Business Review had launched an online customer community: HBR Answer Exchange. The URL is http://answers.hbr.org/

The HBR Answer Exchange is described as follows: “The HBR Answer Exchange is a resource for business professionals in search of advice–or with advice to share. Ask a question, read answers selected by HBR editors, or share your experiences.”

I immediately signed up and logged in. And with great expectations! The concept is brilliant and I would like to imagine that the HBR Answer Exchange is going to be a highly active network. If it is managed well and the proper resources are put to it.

It will also need intelligent members willing to contribute, exchange ideas, share insights and interact with other (hopefully) intelligent members. This is, of course, stating the obvious.

Building a Customer Community: Wrong and Right Ways

Lists and bullet points are convenient. They can be useful tools to summarize so-called key points and help the reader to remember and organize information. The list in the HBR Editor’s comment to the HBR Editor’s question about Mentoring, for example, suggests interesting tools.

I appreciate HBR’s attempt to get the conversation and interaction going. It’s not easy to build a customer community where participation requires a higher level of contribution, consideration and insight than say Twitter or Facebook (F/B).

Myself, I believe quotations substituting for personal insight and interaction often present as commonplace, sterile, or impotent cliché – and nowhere is this more true than Twitter and F/B. Worse, cliche tends to make for good humor.

The HBR Editors might use quotes from HBR books in the questions they pose. Such quotations could provide guidance and a starting point from which community members might embark upon a well considered comment.

A more interesting approach to community building would be to get HBR’s writers to weigh in here. And, perhaps, let it be known that significant contribution here can lead to becoming a contributing writer to HBR.

To the question: How can I get the most from my mentor?

As one who was mentored and as one who has endeavored to mentor others, I have to say that the tools mentioned by HBR’s editors cannot substitute for the necessity of a true human relationship – a relationship that involves all sorts of wonderful fuzzies and, above all, perhaps the greatest of natural virtues… friendship.

C.S. Lewis illuminates the subject in his book, The Four Loves. (You can get the hardback from Amazon.com.)

Writes one top 500 Amazon reviewer (NotATameLion) of this book:

“C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves was not a book that I expected to reshape my thinking. I first picked it up while following the reading guide at the end of Lindskoog’s Mere Christian. I thought it would be a fun read during valentine’s season. One often is most vulnerable to the trap when one is not alert…

And so, once more, C.S. Lewis has changed my thought on a broad portion of life…”

And so, I am skeptical that mentoring can be institutionalized as an organizational strategy to be applied across the large organization- irregardless of vision and resources.  Mentoring depends completely upon the character, mind, and heart of actual persons. Mentoring can, however, be celebrated, encouraged and rewarded. Tools can and should be made available. But tools can only make such relationships more or less effective.

Perhaps, I am mistaken. Maybe Dale Carnegie will come back from the dead to write the uber book about Mentoring.

Until that happy day, I believe that coaching is more suited to organizational strategy. Coaching does not demand the vulnerability and personal investment which would be inappropriate to require of the employee- leader or otherwise.

Furthermore, large organizations are unprepared to make appropriate compensation for such private and personal risk. Nor would they be ready to insure their mentors against such risks and potential claims.

Harvard Business Review

I wish HBR every success in their endeavor to extend the value they already bring to their online community through their website, blog and tweets. The HBR Answer Exchange is an exciting aspiration. And I hope it shall flourish with wisdom and insight.

Make it so.

Stan Faryna
March 14, 2010
Bucharest

If you’d like to connect with me, follow @Faryna and tweet me up on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/faryna

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About Stan Faryna

Mr. Faryna is the founder and co-founder of several technology, design and communication companies in the United States and Europe including Faryna & Associates, Inc., Halo Interactive, and others.

Stan Faryna served as a Global Voices author and translator. Global Voices is a non-profit global citizens’ media project founded at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, a research think-tank focused on the Internet’s impact on society.

His political, scholarly, social and technical opinions have appeared in The Chicago DefenderJurnalul NationalThe Washington TimesSagarSaptamana FinanciaraSocial Justice Review, and other publications.

Mr. Faryna also served as editor-in-chief of Black and Right (Praeger Press, 1996), a landmark collection of socio-political essays by important American thinkers including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Copyright

Copyright 1996 to 2009 by Stan Faryna.

Here’s my fair use policy for my content:

If you want to share my content with your own audience, you may quote a brief excerpt, if and only if, you provide proper attribution (Source: The unofficial blog of Stan Faryna) with a direct link to the source. Generally speaking, as long as you are not acting as an agent or on behalf of a corporation or institution, I am not interested in any payment for the quotation or use of a complete article. Nevertheless, you may not republish or translate the entire article without my written permission. Send your request for permission by inmail through Linkedin. Or DM me at Twitter.

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