A few weeks back I received an email message that sounded a bit spammy to me. But fortunately my intuition trumped first instincts and I responded to the request for help from someone who believed he could innovate, but was having trouble "figuring out the path to get me there."
Thus began my connection and conversation with a 5-year medical student in Cairo who found me via a search on 'how to innovate'. After reading a reprinted article that I had written on innovation, he decided to reach out to me via the resource box I included at the end of the article.
Since then, we've exchanged a few emails and had a Skype conversation about his studies and soon-to-be-graduation. I provided him with a link to a colleague's upcoming book on innovation. I also suggested some creative exercises to get him started.
During our Skype conversation we explored:
- Why had he decided to pursue medicine as a career?
- What challenges exist in the field of medicine in Egypt?
- Does he like to take what already exists and figure out new ways of doing it better or does he prefer to build new things from scratch?
- What is his optimum cycle for personal change, in other words, when does the boredom start to set in?
These questions helped to jump start his creative thinking, since we all have a tendency to get too close to what we focus on day in and day out (in this case, his medical studies). This can make it difficult, at times, to step back and see our value, appreciate our area(s) of expertise, and define what makes us unique.
Technology can help us build bridges in understanding one another. Our Skype call was also a great reminder that innovation and mentoring truly have no boundaries.