Not classrooms, shared experiences!
The world of education and teaching is evolving and changing rapidly. This is especially true when it comes to business owners who don’t necessarily want to commit to a classroom based style of learning – too rigid, too expensive and no opportunity to try before you buy.
From the learner’s point of view, the fear is you’ll end up paying for a course that doesn’t provide what’s required, leading to a business owner feeling demoralised and possibly cheated, subsequently turning his/her back on continuing training and education.
Add to this the fact that running a business can be an extremely lonely experience and at best you have a group of businesses which grow at a much slower pace and at worst a cohort of business leaders who are burning out much more quickly than their predecessors.
So, what many business leaders are actually looking for is a method of obtaining practical, useful information that will help them run their businesses better, offer a decent return on investment and provide them with an open-ended business relationship with a group of peers.
So, How Does It Work?
A facilitator puts together a group of business owners whose businesses share some similarities, it might be a similar turnover, or a similar stage in development.
Groups of 8 to 12 are optimum, with no competing businesses in any one group.
The group arranges to meet once per month. At the first meeting the group decides on the issues that are keeping them up at night, this may be cash flow problems, recruitment & retention, funding etc.
One topic is selected for each of the next 6 meetings. The rest of that first meeting is then spent very loosely drilling down into the problems of those topics, and an agenda is produced for each meeting.
The facilitator is of course the key to the success or failure of these meetings. She/he has to be able to move the discussion forwards yet maintain a focus on the important aspects of the group.
The discussions must always have a positive bias. Of course, the subjects under discussion are classed as problems, as such there will be negativity around the subjects, but the emphasis has to be on solutions to these problems, and not the problems themselves.
This is the real benefit of having a professional facilitator. Each member of the group will have their own personality, the quiet one, the bossy one, the control freak.
However, the fact they are in the room, means they all see the benefit in talking about the problems they face, and they all have something to offer. The facilitator needs to be able to get the best out of all of them.
Each group member will have a specific problem, but they will have a shared interest in solving that problem, the real power of the group comes from this shared experience. As each member of the group outlines their specific issue the whole group learns.
As previously stated, running a business can be an incredibly lonely experience, people get used to dealing with situations on a solo basis; given this fact, the meetings have to be strictly confidential, so each group member builds up a high degree of trust with the other members of the group.
However, it’s incredible how quickly trust and camaraderie builds in these situations. As a rule of thumb by month 3 people are exchanging incredibly confidential, sometimes personal information with each other that they would previously have thought twice about before telling their spouse, never mind someone they only met three months ago!
Put in very simple terms, none of us is as smart as all of us.
For more information on peer group learning, contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.