Saturday, January 14, 2006


In my studies of innovation clusters, talent was always one of the indicators of the success of economic development. Thus, attracting, training, and retaining talented innovators and entrepreneurs seems to be a key ingredient for regional growth.

In a recent Globe & Mail commentary, Roger Martin, the Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, attested that Canada does not have a problem in churning out talented scientists and innovators. The problem, according to Martin, is a shortage of skilled managers.

I agree with Martin; managerial (and entrepreneurial) talent is in shortage (not only in Canada). An MBA or in-classroom education is only one of the ways to develop successful managers. The other component is on-the-job training and the bestowing of responsibility (and, thus, being tolerant of occassional failure).

Job training through internships, mentorship programs, and fostering of start-ups among MBAs complements the financial, human resource, and marketing skills honed in an MBA program. There is much to be said for a standardized and organized processes learned in a classroom. But there is much to be said for the unpredictability of managerial circumstances. (Can entrepreneurship be learned, for instance? That's a topic for a separate post!).

Corporations are beginning to set up mentorship programs for those on managerial tracks (both pre- and post-MBAs). The transfer of tacit skills learned as apprentices to mentors can be invaluable to young innovators, entrepreneurs, and managers. (I must mention that mentorship programs are inherently difficult to structure and implement; there must be a strong committment from both sides to achieve specific and measurable goals).

My hats off to the many corporations that offer mentorship to employees (check out Sun's SEED Program) and students (like the University of Toronto's Rotman School).


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