Mentoring and organisational learning in research and development

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Abstract:

This paper presents and discusses the contribution of ‘mentoring’ relationships to organisational learning and knowledge creation in the early stages of research and development (R&D) projects. Our study considers the characteristics of a scientific leader, the nature of the context he creates, and how dialogue contributes to scientific breakthrough. Our study is unusual in as much as research on knowledge creation has developed separately, yet in parallel, with that of mentoring. It is rare to combine these disciplines and yet our research shows there is much to learn from examining the two as a process.

We conducted our research at TECHNO, a high-tech-based European company producing advanced equipment dedicated to particles acceleration. Interviews were carried out in 2002–2003 with the founder of the company, the head of the R&D and engineering department, and team members involved in the low energy cyclotron project.

Our exploratory research enabled us to identify differences in actors' perceptions about the nature and characteristics of these relationships. Our study also suggests that not all sets of relationships can tolerate the degree of intensity provided by the ‘mentor’. TECHNO has other ‘mentors’ who do not manage to generate the same creative context. Complementary mentoring styles based on premises and process reflection allow to support and enhance ‘upper levels’ learning by junior team members. We examine the nature of the leaders as mentors and catalysts within the learning process and briefly discuss implications for setting up and maintaining learning teams.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9310.2005.00406.x

Affiliations: EDHEC Business School – Nice Campus: 393 Promenade des Anglais, 06202 Nice, France, Lille Campus, 58 Rue du Port, 59046 Lille France , Email: liz.borredon@edhec.edu

Publication date: November 1, 2005

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