Mentors & Brokers: The Bond-Makers of Your Organization

alexgarciatopeteInnovation, Organizational Design, Research Leave a Comment

Everyone can agree that leaders have the most power to influence the functioning and culture of any organization, whether a company, a nonprofit, or an entire country. More recent research, however, has shown that two roles that go largely unrecognized but that have as much influence in day-to-day successes of the organization are mentors and knowledge brokers. To make a molecular chemistry analogy, mentors and knowledge brokers serve like the electrons that keep the charge and provide the cohesion of molecules—meaning of your teams, your workforce, and your entire organization.

Mentors, both formal and informal, are the electrons keeping the charge, in other words the energy, of the organization through their guidance of new and existing members. Mentors are the ones not only “teaching the ropes” to their peers, but also the ones that carry and disseminate the customs and values of the organization through their coaching. Leaders may set these by example, but it’s mentors who inculcate them on the daily to others.

Knowledge brokers, on the other hand, are the electrons providing the cohesion through their bridging of departments, teams, or capabilities within the organization. Just like covalent bonds of molecules depend on sharing common electrons, knowledge brokers within an organization are members who participate in two or more teams/functions, either due to formal structures or because of their own hybrid performance. Knowledge brokers enhance creativity, help avoid inertia, blind-spots, and stagnation, and tend to boost the performance of all the groups they belong to because of the knowledge sharing they embody.

Do you know who are the mentors and brokers in your organization?

Why wait to find them and help them deploy their roles to their full extent?


Boudreau, J. Donald, Mary Ellen Macdonald, and Yvonne Steinert. 2014. “Affirming Professional Identities Through an Apprenticeship: Insights From a Four-Year Longitudinal Case Study.” Academic Medicine 89 (7): 1038–45.

Burt, Ronald S. 2004. “Structural Holes and Good Ideas.” American Journal of Sociology 110 (2): 349–99.

Datta, Ajoy. n.d. “Negotiating Difference in an Interdisciplinary Collaboration,” 28.

Díaz-Faes, Adrián A., Paula Otero-Hermida, Müge Ozman, and Pablo D’Este. 2020. “Do Women in Science Form More Diverse Research Networks than Men? An Analysis of Spanish Biomedical Scientists.” Edited by Cassidy R. Sugimoto. PLOS ONE 15 (8): e0238229.

Glazer, Evan M., and Michael J. Hannafin. 2006. “The Collaborative Apprenticeship Model: Situated Professional Development within School Settings.” Teaching and Teacher Education 22 (2): 179–93.


Jang, Sujin. 2018. “The Most Creative Teams Have a Specific Type of Cultural Diversity,” 4.

Lam, Alice. 2019. “Hybrids, Identity and Knowledge Boundaries: Creative Artists between Academic and Practitioner Communities.” Human Relations, May, 001872671984625.

Mitrany, Michal, and Daniel Stokols. 2005. “Gauging the Transdisciplinary Qualities and Outcomes of Doctoral Training Programs.” Journal of Planning Education and Research 24 (4): 437–49.

Priaulx, Nicky, and Martin Weinel. 2018. “Connective Knowledge: What We Need to Know about Other Fields to ‘Envision’ Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration.” European Journal of Futures Research 6 (1).

Sandholtz, Kurt, and Walter W Powell. 2018. “Amphibious Entrepreneurs and the Origins of Invention.” In Oxford Handbook on Entrepreneurship and Collaboration, edited by Jeffrey Reuer and Sharon Matusik, 45.

Van Rijnsoever, Frank J., Marijn A. Van Weele, and Chris P. Eveleens. 2017. “Network Brokers or Hit Makers? Analyzing the Influence of Incubation on Start-up Investments.” International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal 13 (2): 605–29.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *