Be Smart About Art

Reverse mentoring...?

written by: Susan Mumford June 18, 2017 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan Mumford + Chris King's Blog 1587 views

Reverse mentoring...?

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Every now and then I come across a concept that immediately strikes a chord, and ‘reverse mentoring’ falls into this category.

What is it? As implied by the name, reverse mentoring flip-flops the traditional mentoring relationship. Instead of an experienced professional (artist, gallerist, etc) taking someone newer to the field under his/her wing, this variation sees the newbie as adviser, providing insight into new and emerging and trends, in addition to shedding light on generational perspectives. Technology and matters online is one area where I see this happening a lot.

Also referred to as ‘upward mentoring’, it’s often done as part of an exchange, and many Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who actively seek out reverse mentors (most often Millennials, as well as younger Gen Xers) find that a two-way exchange naturally occurs. Alexa Scordato, a reverse mentoring devotee notes, “We need to stop thinking about it as an ‘us versus them’ conversation. It’s a two-way street*.”

While the most obvious benefit to reverse mentoring is the learning itself, it’s worth considering other outcomes, for example: bringing people of various generations closer together and gaining respect for those at different stage of career. Professionally, the recognition of varying strengths (and weaknesses) can readily result in inter-generational collaborations.

Take for instance a known art dealer and someone just starting out: by pursuing a project together, the established dealer can help the project be taken seriously by the establishment, while the emerging professional can effectively engage and sell to millennial collectors via social networking platforms.  

Yet, consciously admitting that you could do with support, not to mention doing something about it, is one of the biggest hurdles faced. Penny Power OBE, a London-based speaker and author, says that “part of the learning process is about admitting you need help**.”  And arguably, another key point is understanding that such support is needed in the first place.

This brings to mind the four stages of competence: 

  • Unconscious incompetence (having no idea you have something to learn)
  • Conscious incompetence (being aware you have something to learn)
  • Conscious competence (needing to be conscious to implement the learning)
  • Unconscious competence (the learning has become so ingrained that it seems to be second nature)

When it comes to participating in the modern-day art world (following last week’s blog post), where do you fit into the competence spectrum? If you have a lot to learn in the way of technology, seek out those who can teach you (and remember what you have to offer in return). And if you’re a technical whiz, be active about putting this to use, providing much-needed insight to others while being open-minded to learning from those with years of experience under their belts.  

*from Reverse Mentoring: What It Is and Why It Is Beneficial, by Lisa Quast, published in Forbes , January 3rd, 2011)
** from What Is Reverse Mentoring, published in Psychologies, 21st March 2016


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