Adults can learn from GenNext

Adults can learn from GenNext


Adults can learn from GenNext

Learning can become a beautiful part of life when nothing, not even age, becomes a hindrance, writes Swatee Jog.

Learning is a dynamic pursuit. The process of learning, unlearning and relearning is constant, indispensable and beneficial for humans. While one is at the game for long, the game changes and so do the rules and the dynamics thereupon. Students and professionals need to keep pace with changing technologies, systems, ways of getting things done and thriving at the institute or workplace. Nevertheless, all this needs a little guidance.

Assumptions like knowledge increases with age have been turned on their backs of late. It is no longer held true that the older you are, the more knowledge you have. Smart youngsters are outwitting older students and workers at every level. It is in this context that the concept of reverse mentoring is gaining significance.

Reverse mentoring broadly signifies a younger person mentoring an older one in certain matters concerned with technology, social media and unconventional insights about culture and consumers. As is the fact, youngsters are more open to change and candid in their feedback and approach, and this results in things getting done faster than usual. If you have seen a father seeking help of his teenage son in installing software on his computer or the professor calling out for the fresh student for help with his laptop or mobile, you know for sure that reverse mentoring is the way to keep pace with.

Reverse mentoring is a relatively new concept, considering seniors are usually averse to displaying their lack of knowledge in a certain field and then going ahead and seeking help from juniors. However, things are changing for the better with time. With organisations increasingly having a healthy generational mix and young ones routinely heading departments and companies with senior staff on board, the reluctance towards learning from young ones is fast dissipating.

Towards reverse mentoring

* Accepting and adapting: Acknowledging that the younger lot is quicker and sharper in understanding and adapting to new technology, the social media ecosystem and ways of life is important. Identifying what you need to learn from the young and then reaching out for the right person is also crucial. Understanding whether the young mentor has the requisite know-how, s/he is open for such a role, and does s/he have the maturity to train a senior person is also some of the things that need consideration.

* Keeping abreast with: That curricula changes almost every year and hence what we have studied a couple of years ago, has, many times, become redundant, is a fact we must accept, and fast. With age, our choices of reading material, music, social media habits, sense of humor and openness towards life change. What we presume to be superficial and lacking substance may be the in-thing for the millennial. These are things which we may not personally approve, but we need to be abreast of, nonetheless, if we intend to remain relevant to the changing world. It is here that reverse mentoring helps.

* Gaining a fresh perspective: Seeking out guidance from younger students at college or workers at the workplace helps gain a fresh perspective of the happenings in the world. The youth almost always come out with the freshest of ideas and have a different take on any situation. They are also lesser prejudiced towards drastic changes. It is not only the more formal areas of knowledge and work that they deal with coolly, they have their own unconventional and less complicated approach towards personal relationships and work-life balance which can help seniors better in resolving certain problems also.

* Assimilating information: When a senior is mentored by a junior, it brings with it a whole load of information that was not available when we were in the regular mentee role. It gives a more easy-to-understand and sorted out information that can be assimilated without much difficulty.

* Saving time and finance: Reverse mentoring also saves the organization a lot of time and money involved in getting trained anew. Since the younger lot is already well versed with the latest in technology and systems, they train the others much better and faster and in a more friendly and flexible atmosphere than a professional trainer would.

* Breaking the ice: Younger mentors feel empowered and joyous in mentoring seniors and this definitely helps break ice at the organizational level. Inter-personal relationships become much more harmonious when everyone has a role in the domain of knowledge advancement.

Prejudices involved

There are, however, certain prejudices and barriers involved in availing the advantages of reverse mentoring. Overcoming these blockades can result in a very fruitful relationship.

* Senior vs junior: Seniors must not consider age as a hindrance in seeking information and guidance from juniors. Just because someone is younger or junior does not mean that his knowledge is less or inferior. However, the junior involved must also not forget that the person seeking his guidance is more experienced and hence a healthy respect is the cornerstone of this process.

* Sense of insecurity: The tone and candor in communication matters a lot in reverse mentoring. Both parties must maintain that each benefit from the other and no one can boss around. The younger mentor should not, at any time, take things for granted and over-step his role. At times, the new role may make matters uneasy for the senior members, used to be in a delivering role throughout, to start receiving from young ones. It may result in a sense of insecurity. This feeling must be stifled at the very beginning. The organizational atmosphere must be such that provides ample stability for both, the mentor and mentee and thrives on harmony.

Today’s world expects and rewards up-to-date knowledge and co-existence which is no more an option but a pre-requisite. Reverse mentoring has its own benefits, but the concept can prove tricky when implemented at an advanced stage in a senior person’s life. Hence, today’s schools and colleges must incorporate the same at an early stage whereby junior and senior students are made study-buddies where one learns from the other. School and college level festivals and programmes are a great way to initiate this concept. This can also create a healthy reverse-mentoring role which then acclimatizes both towards the benefits and pitfalls thereupon.

Learning can become a beautiful part of life when nothing, not even age, becomes a hindrance.

(The writer is a training and placement officer in Belgaum.)