“Mentors have been, and remain, an important part of my own development.”

Simon Beyer is Partner and Chief Strategy Officer at the Ingager agency, which helps some of the world’s largest brands with digital issues. Simon is a mentor on ConnectMentors.com, a course coordinator at Bergh’s School of Communication and also a frequent hire lecturer in digital conversion. Author of “Den digitala omställningen: Strategier och Perspektiv” (Adapting to a digital era: Strategies and Perspectives).

How have your mentors supported your development?

My view on development and progress in general is that it’s hard to do by yourself. Given that standpoint, I’d say that most of my development is based on insights from others in combination with my personal grit. Over the years I have always had an outreached approach, learning from persons that I believed had something to teach me. Initially, my focus was on expanding my network and gaining tangible insights, a pretty selfish approach…. Pretty fast I realized that no one can give me exactly everything I thought I needed but I also came to the conclusion that it is beneficial to discuss thoughts on various topics with people that had more experience than me. By discussing all kinds of topics with mentors my own overall knowledge base has grown tremendously. For me personally it is great to know that I can always talk to one of my mentors to get a second opinion on topics that might be difficult to discuss internally. It is a bit like having a ”professional friend”. My own choices throughout my career have been the result of my relationships with my different mentors and their support on specific issues as well as my long term ambition.

What intrinsic skills does a good mentor need to have?

A curiosity on other human beings is essential in order to be able to coach another person without monetary compensation. I also think that a good mentor finds value in helping others to progress and finds value in the experience and questions that other people might have. Finally, a good mentor doesn’t make decisions for someone else, but merely presents different options that display various perspectives that could be taken into consideration to make a good decision.

What was the one stand out piece of advice given to you by a mentor?

One of my mentors, David, gave me some really valuable advice on how to handle my career in parallel with becoming a father for the first time. The advice itself is a bit complex to share but in essence could I learn from some of David’s insights in order to take a better decision for myself. The learnings that David shared with me on this specific question had a big impact on my final decision.

What attracted you to Connect Mentors?

Connect Mentors presents a new way for me to hopefully get in contact with people I’d never meet otherwise. It has been valuable for me to be able to connect with different mentors in my life and I would like to ”give back” to people who might find my experience and personality attractive.

SB: “The eternal tour to spread knowledge about the effects of the digital transition continues.”

How do you achieve this within an organisation? Is there a role for a mentorship programme within an organisation?

Adapting to digitalization is not about tech, it is about creating a new mindset in the organization: a mindset that continuously strives to increase value for the user (a cliche but true). Value comes from people, and for people to come up with new ideas it is crucial always to be learning new things. To succeed with change, the importance of knowledge needs to be high up on the management agenda and the entire organization must be involved — if not will there be no impact.

One tool that organizations such as Spotify use is cross-functional teams. When collaborating with others from different backgrounds and functions the overall knowledge and understanding increase at a rapid pace.

Most important is that, led by management example, time is allocated to create a culture where learning and understanding are central. In-house mentors are one way to increase internal understanding, preferably with mentors from all divisions/teams.

How do you scale this spread of knowledge across industries?

Adapting isn’t fun for management since they have to step out of their comfort zone and try new solutions. Therefore it is mostly industries that have already been hit by the effects of digitalization that has an incentive to adapt. Media, telecom and news are industries that have been affected, hence they now try to spread the knowledge within their organizations. Industries that have not yet been affected to the same extent are often reluctant to adapt or change. The message that adaption through knowledge is key can be addressed to all industries but there needs to be a sense of urgency before people actually listen.

For me personally I get invited to various conferences targeting different industries which provides an opportunity for me to address the topic across industries. In many cases I believe that many experience a need to adapt on an intellectual level. The challenge is to go from insight to action.

SB: “Culture is considered by many to be the single greatest challenge, together with leadership, in order to create successful digitalisation. It is interesting and a little paradoxical that human aspects are absolutely most important for creating success in a digital world.”

How do you build a culture and what style of leadership best supports the building of a culture?

Culture can be defined as ”what people do when their boss leaves the room”. Building a culture is like raising a child, there a now templates and the end-product is a result of many different actions over a long period of time. Words such as agile and flexible can be used but often mean very little in people’s everyday life. To create value in a world where expectations grow faster than ever before the only solution is to act differently than what we are used to. To make this possible organizations must have a culture that promotes new ideas and is open to learning from others.

Successful leadership is nowadays more about distributing mandate than trying to get power. Decisions need to be made on the edges of the organization, not always in a conference room. Speed is vital, hence leaders need to find ways that enable the organization to keep up. The functionality of leadership has shifted from giving orders to spending more time on how to build an organisation that can compete in a fierce environment. Leaders should spread best practice and inspire their teams to find new ways to create value. One important enabler is to provide opportunities for everyone in the organization to reach their full potential and be a part of the change. Mentor/mentee relationships are a great way to build culture since it is one way to bring new perspectives into an organzation. There are many ways to learn and develop, a mentor is a great tool because it focuses on the personal relationship and is often tailored for a specific individual and his/her needs.

Head over to www.connectmentors.com and get matched with your mentor today!

Aerate is a social enterprise that creates and develops scaleable concepts that connect and support people through online platforms and applications.