In a complex working and operating environment, skills should not be developed in a bubble. Challenges faced in work are so multi-faceted that they often cannot be solved by any one individual – or by any single organization. That is why, in order to develop our skills, we need new agile ways to cross the high level of expertise required to solve various problems. Furthermore, development does not always need massive and expensive initial investments.
Getting out of the bubble through cross-expertise mentoring: ideas and advantages of the method
Cross-expertise mentoring (CEM) is the product of Annastiina Mäki, a managing consultant at Psycon. The method differs from conventional mentoring in that the roles of the mentor and actor are inseparable – skills are cross-pollinated between different leading experts. In an equal development relationship of a pair, both give and both receive. We have already launched experiments in a few applications during spring 2017.
Experimentation between expert companies
The idea of the new application of the CEM method originated when Psycon considered ways to help experts in leadership behavior to develop their marketing and digital communication skills. Zeeland Family, a marketing communication company, proved to be an excellent partner, as it saw a similar need to develop skills related to the management and work-related behavior of key individuals. As the two organizations had identical interests, they decided to start working together. Pair work was started in a shared workshop in February, after which the process was continued independently according to the goals and practices defined by each pair. The goals set by the pairs are related, for example, to the management of creative work, the identification of needs related to marketing and leadership, supplier-buyer cooperation, out-of-the-box thinking and individual growth. The principles applied to the process emphasize mutual trust, giving feedback actively and varied targeted meetings. In October, experts met to reflect on the outcomes of the experiment from the perspective of the usability of the method and individual development goals.
Experiments at universities
Universities are also experimenting the CEM method. In March, the Haaga-Helia School of Vocational Teacher Education launched a six-month process together with four universities. Experts from Haaga-Helia and Helsinki, Aalto, Tampere and Turku Universities formed work pairs. First, the participating schools agreed upon the principles and goals of the pairs. The process focuses on the development of pedagogical activities at universities through research, coaching, articles and blogs. The inspired mentoring pairs presented productive themes for further processing. These will be analyzed, developed, productized and processed to form tools. Themes include cultural questions related to exporting education, the development and pedagogical management of the working culture at universities, the development and coaching of facilitation methods, links between theory and practice, and the use of drama in pedagogy.
Agile and effective
Cross-expertise mentoring is an ideal method for this ever-changing era of networks. However, it is not suitable for everyone. It produces the best results when used by experienced and independent individuals who are prepared for bold and goal-driven development. We will develop the idea and practices on the basis of the aforementioned experiments, and we will release more news of our experiences along the way. However, the launch showed us that CEM is an agile and accessible method to develop skills between different organizations and sectors. At the same time, it challenges the practices and cultures of organizations, opening up opportunities for whole new skill combinations. Cooperation at an actor level is natural, without rigid institutional structures slowing down the fulfilment of the goals of work pairs.
Managing consultant, Licentiate of Philosophy (Education)
Principal lecturer, Doctor of Philosophy (Education)
Haaga-Helia School of Vocational Teacher Education