I am not a scientist, engineer, politician or philosopher. I am not a person whom you might expect could impact the world, for good or bad. I am merely a creative designer, an image builder, a master tailor & cutter. In my small way however, through my career, I have been the innovator or catalyst that made new things happen and guided people and companies through periods of confusion or stagnation. Much of what I do is in helping companies keep in front of trends and preparing them to best be able to take advantage of the constantly changing and volatile marketplace. I am sometimes described as a mentor.
During a period of reflection and research, my curiosity took me to the dictionary to find the definition of the words advisor, mentor and consultant. They all mean virtually the same thing: ’one who gives expert advice to others’. The etymological dictionary, however, reminded me that Mentor was, in fact, an actual person. Reading further it turns out that he was a total failure at everything and it took a woman using her powers and skills to impersonate him who became the real mentor.
The word mentor evolved to mean trusted advisor, friend, teacher and wise person and has been in common use since the mid 18th century, via French and Latin.
My own transition began in England, where I was born. I always felt that France was my spiritual home but instead lived in Italy for many years. Having worked on creative projects all my life I have accumulated so much knowledge that I am now known as an ‘expert’. This is both humbling and exhilarating and gives me the opportunity to help both companies and individuals through their own transformation processes.
Seeing things from the outside means that you are not encumbered by internal policies, politics or procedures. I have the freedom to look, evaluate and consider where there are strengths to build upon, weaknesses to be eliminated and gaps to be filled. This is where creativity comes in. When you have all of the facts to hand you look for a way to make that company special and different in a way that can grow and endure, a way that is in keeping with the core values and philosophy of the brand, product or corporation. I have, more often than not, found that the solutions lie in the client company itself. The passage of time, well-worn routines and old habits may have obscured the vital assets but with a fresh approach and a clear focus, negatives can quickly become positives.
I am a great believer in the power of creative thinking and I think that it will be more and more the driving force behind the success of managing change. Global connectivity has increased and expanded our pool of knowledge to the extent that it has been estimated that on average, human knowledge is doubling every 13 months. According to IBM, the build-out of the “internet of things” will eventually lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours. It took more than 1,500 years for it to increase barely 400% so you can only imagine the changes we will experience in our lifetime.
Creativity is really about the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations. In a world where every day is becoming more and more visual-centric and with communication channels that can reach the appropriate target directly, you can access hearts and minds. This is where an ‘expert’ with creative awareness and image building skills can help a company succeed.
When I sit down with my team of experts, each contributing a different skill-set, we become a powerful force. By using our creative energy and pooled awareness we continue to evolve and are constantly generating innovative solutions. This makes my work both exciting and satisfying in equal proportions.
The tale of Mentor
Odysseus, king of Ithaca, fights in the Trojan War and entrusts the care of his household to Mentor, who serves as teacher and overseer of Odysseus’ son, Telemachus. Mentor fails at this task and the household falls into disarray with, among other things, a group of reprobate suitors lusting after Queen Penelope, eating from the royal stocks, and making themselves at home. Telemachus cowers before this group, and seems incapable of standing up to the situation. Instead, he longs for his father’s return. It takes Athena, (also called Minerva) Goddess of War and patroness of the arts and industry, to assume the form of Mentor and she accompanies Telemachus on his quest. She disguises herself as Mentor to get Telemachus on track, goad him to action, and find his father. Using various disguises, Athena guides and protects Telemachus on his journey, sometimes dispensing advice, sometimes deflecting spears and sometimes helping with management tasks like finding a crew for his ship. Eventually, Telemachus and his father return home and rid the house of the suitors. Athena is a goddess with great powers, who not only guided Telemachus, but intervened in overt and deliberate ways to ensure his success. This is where the word mentor really originates.
The story of Mentor comes from books 1-3 of Homer’s ‘The Odyssey.’
Michael St John is the CEO of Design Piazza a full-service creative solutions network with its principal offices in Italy and the USA.