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What is the Peer Learning Institute?

The Peer Learning Institute helps organizations develop their management capability and increase performance using structured peer learning groups in the workplace.

What is a peer learning group?

A peer learning group is a group of managers who learn with and from each other in a self-directed and self-managed process.

Why is it a good choice?

Organizations that use peer learning for leadership growth have 36% more net revenue per employee, 9% higher gross margin and are 4.6 times more likely to anticipate and respond effectively to change. Peer learning is the future of leadership development.

How do peer learning groups develop managers and leaders?

Peer learning groups offer a safe environment for the managers to openly talk about their challenges without fear of being judged or evaluated. This psychologically safe space enables the managers to learn and develop new skills. Research shows that safety and the ability to be vulnerable and learn through failure are the bedrocks for developing high performing managers and leaders. Peer learning groups make this happen.

How is this different from traditional management training?

Traditional management development programs are conducted by facilitators outside of the company. They provide general theoretical knowledge without specific relevance or practical application. They take considerable time and energy to set up; have an enormous cost associated with it; and offer, for many reasons, very little return on investment.

Peer learning groups are immediately relevant because they occur onsite and are self-facilitated. They are results-oriented, cost-effective, and simple to set up. The managers learn from each other, validate their experience, build more expertise from provided materials and direct application, and learn practical management techniques that they can and do use immediately.

Why does it work?

Research has found that 70% of learning comes from experience, experimentation and reflection, not the classroom. The peer learning group model works because it incorporates experience, experimentation and reflection. It deals with current problems and challenges faced by managers, right where they face them.

It validates managers perception that self-organized and self-managed forms of learning are more useful than traditional classroom training.

How does it work?

In our Peer Learning Group Model©, managers share their experience, build their knowledge and skills, and bond with their peers. It is self-directed and onsite so there is no need for an outside facilitator or travel. There are Peer Learning Institute© materials that guide the managers through a module, which has a 2-session learning format.

The two-session structure is separated by a period of practice and experimentation. This allows participants to analyze, practice and reflect, which helps them adopt new behaviors and practices. Each session has a structure that ensures that all participants have an equal opportunity to share and learn, and to focus on the topic of interest to the group without divergence to other issues. Each session is only 90 minutes and held one month apart.

What do you mean by self-directed?

There is no outside facilitator used. Members of the Peer Learning Group take turns facilitating the sessions, following a facilitator guide and agenda.

Could someone other than the managers in the group be the facilitator?

No. The managers facilitate themselves so that they feel they have the freedom and psychological safety to be open and honest about their successes and mistakes while maintaining confidentiality.

Why 90 minutes for a session?

90 minutes is considered enough time to learn while maintaining focus and attention. The intention is to provide key information in a short time to make it more convenient for managers. This minimizes their time away from their offices.

How much time should there be between Session 1 and Session 2?

Three to four weeks, to provide sufficient time for the managers to have opportunities to practice using their new management techniques to handle similar challenges. Since the management techniques are intended to address a current challenge that is part of the managers’ daily responsibilities, we suggest that practice begins within 7 to 10 days after the first session. The new techniques should be used as often as possible, so the managers become more comfortable. New habits require 21 days to become firmly established.

How are the groups formed?

A peer learning group is composed of up to 6 managers who do not have functional reporting relationships between each other and are on a similar level of professional responsibility. They do not have to come from the same department or part of the organization. Diversity is welcome and encouraged to ensure broad experience and diverse points of view. The best way to organize a group is voluntary selection by the participants.

Why six managers in a group?

Six is an ideal number for small group dynamics. Six members create a group in which each member can be easily heard and can have a fair share of participation. Any larger group makes hearing difficult and becomes unproductive. A group can have fewer members but no less than three.

Do the managers have to be in the same place?

No, you can have virtual peer learning groups using Skype or Zoom, as long as you follow the same facilitation and group rules and a protocol for how the managers communicate.

What topics can they explore?

Any topic of interest to the managers can be explored through the Peer Learning Groups. We have over 30 most common management topics for you to explore and more learning modules are always being developed. We will also develop and/or customize modules on desired topics as requested.

What is the PLG program?

The Peer Learning Group program consists of: an optional survey for managers to identify topics of interest; an introductory session to explain the peer learning group process; the formation of the peer learning groups around their selected topics; a trust-building session; and micro-learning tips during the practice period between Sessions 1 and 2.

Can we purchase the learning modules without the PLG program?

We advise against this. The peer learning modules each begin by having the group members identify and discuss a current challenge related to the topic under discussion. It is important that the group members feel comfortable admitting to these challenges. To assist with this, there is a preliminary session for the peer learning groups that focuses on building trust and psychological safety among the members prior to their first session.

Who administers the program?

Two champions drawn from the organization coordinate the program after being trained by The Peer Learning Institute. Coordination tasks include providing an introductory workshop for the peer learning group members and assisting with scheduling meeting locations for the groups.

I do not have time or anyone to do it in my organization. Will you set it up for us?

We will be happy to set up the program. This includes: running the initial meeting to explain the program; conducting a survey to identify and prioritize management challenges; overseeing the formation of the groups and their topic selections; coaching the managers who will be facilitating their groups; and administering the program on-site.

What if the group falls apart?

This is unlikely, since the members of the group have volunteered to be in the group to learn a better way to manage a difficult situation. However, if the occasion arises where the group is struggling for some reason, possible solutions include: a different member serving as facilitator, one or more members leaving and being replaced by new managers, finding a different more relevant topic, and in the worst-case scenario, ending the group.