Using your internships as reverse mentoring of you and your team S11 Ep26

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STEAM Science Technology Art and Math

Internships and Reverse Mentoring

Summer is long over and now we are getting into the fall. This time of year always makes me look back on the summer internships. I’m a big believer in “internships” as a way for people to “learn”. Each summer, we bring in interns across a wide range of disciplines: technical, legal, marketing and this year social media.

This years interns were impressive.

Over the years – I use interns to be my pulse on what is happening in the education system. In my previous role, I would select two and have them stay at my house. For their internship, they would report to someone else. At night – it was the barrage of constant questions. Why must we do something a certain way? Why aren’t we doing this?

Most people think I’m nuts for even doing this. I learn so much. It’s a process I call “reverse mentoring”

And what did I learn??

While there have always been over-achievers,  the “mass” of the students are not being prepared for what I call the innovation or creative economy.

The world is shifting from the information/knowledge economy to the innovation/creative economy. Its about have a workforce that can “invent” solutions to the worlds problems then having the other people “manufacture” what they invent.

To be successful in the innovation economy, students must have:

  • Critical thinking skills
  • Problem solving experiences
  • Entreprenurship / Instrapraneurship skills
  • Have confidence …
  • Understand the process to create and idea and then take it forward through execution

So how do we give future generations that experiences they need?

In my mind, we need to raise the visibility and prestige for our top academic students to the same level we give athletes. One person is doing that is Dean Kamen, Founder of FirstRobotics  whose missions is:

.. to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.

Dean and I have a met a few times at different events and I can tell you he is passionate about giving every kid the experience and opportunity to discover their passion.

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Guests: Peter Lierni and Mark Varricchione are co-founders from STEMlete

Peter Lierni and Mark Varricchione are co-founders from STEMlete (a play on the word “athlete”) who saw that there were a number of online communities for the self-promotion of student athletes seeking to: exhibit their athletic excellence; share their knowledge; improve their performance; get recognized; establish a following; and be recruited and succeed; however, there was nothing analogous for those individuals who have a passion and brilliance in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).

They are a on a mission to change the focus; build a new kind of community; identify the world’s most promising STEM talent; and enable innovation by providing an online platform with an unprecedented collection of free capabilities to enable “STEMletes” to globally connect; communicate; collaborate; and create. In particular, they hope to give academia, industry, and others globally the opportunity to get an early line-of-sight into the world’s most promising STEM talent.

You can connect with them at

Brain Hack/Killer Question

How will you identify and locate customers in five years?

Every hot trend reaches a point I like to call the “Uncle Larry moment.” When one of your older relatives announces he’s taken up something that had seemed cutting edge, futuristic, and exciting up till that second. Facebook and Twitter have long passed the Uncle Larry moment. MySpace passed it years ago.

It’s critical to constantly reconsider and change the way you are communicating with your customers. Look at how you are finding them and how they are finding you. Are you applying an old-world mentality to a new-world technology?

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Don’t rely on today’s version of social media;

  • What is tomorrow’s Twitter ?
  • Will you be able to recognize and embrace it in a timely fashion?

The only way to really gauge which company will be the next THING, and which will quickly disappear is to find out what the people around you are actually using.

I knew Groupon was going to be something to watch (way before it went big) when I heard my wife mention it to three different friends within twenty-four hours.

How are you going to communicate with your customers as the way they communicate changes?

  • Email – twitter
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Whatsapp
  • Snapchat
  • Slack

A few years ago I heard a lot about companies reaching out to their customers through blogs. Now people are abandoning blogs.

To be ready for these shifts and changes, you (or someone on your team) have to be an early adopter. If that’s just not going to happen within your corporate structure, then at least don’t be a follower. Don’t watch to see what’s working for other people and then copy them a year later. Don’t be the last corporation to get a Twitter account or ask people to like them on Facebook.

You have to take risks and experiment with the “new”.

So ask yourself …

  • Where are your customers going to spend their time in the next five years?
  • What new emerging media is going to be competing for that time in five years (immersive media)?
  • How will you find and communicate with your customers in the future ?

To get connected, text the word INNOVATE to 33-444. If outside the US, send an email to

Listen to Preparing the next generation for the innovation economy S11 Ep25

Zoom - 2017 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Meeting Solutions - Is a sponsor of the Killer Innovations Show

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