One of my all-time favorite poems is all ignorance toboggans into know by e.e. cummings. In it, he warns us of the dangers of doing what I’m about to do now – offer a simple, singular answer to a complex question. He would most definitely accuse me of striving to achieve ignorance today, with the understanding that I will slide back into knowledge tomorrow (or the day after). To that I’ll plead guilty, and since today is today, and because we all like to boil things down to concepts that are easy for us to grasp, let me take you down the mountain.
In my view, the reinforcing loop depicted above is a big reason that peer groups for business leaders work so well. I’ll start with this comparison: think about any book club worth its salt. Each member reads the book and brings his/her unique perspective on the content to the group. After an hour or two, there isn’t one member who doesn’t understand the narrative and its context more deeply and more broadly than before the conversation began. By examining the book through everyone’s mental models, we become exposed to ideas and perspectives we would never have considered on our own.
We learn best when we learn together. Business leaders who share concepts and ideas with one another also help generate deeper understanding. Better yet, they give each other the courage to act – to actually apply what they learn. It’s one thing to become enamored with an idea, it’s quite another to implement it. Once they try it, and as they work to perfect the new initiative, they begin to achieve the positive results they imagined. The group celebrates member wins together, which only inspires everyone to learn more and continue the cycle.
I’m sure there are a number of you who will help me climb back up the slope to knowledge again by sharing your perspective on what you believe to be the secret to the success of peer groups for business leaders. Since it’s likely there is no one dynamic that deserves 100% of the credit, I hope you will. Where I believe we can agree is that business leaders can help each other in ways they won’t find anywhere else.
Now that I’ve offered my thoughts on why these groups work so well, next week, I’ll take another trip down the mountain and share the how – the 5 conditions necessary for making this reinforcing loop come to life.