A while ago, I felt the need to belong to communities where I could network and gain new ideas, support, and encouragement. I joined several organizations. In addition to the all-member meetings, they offered opportunities to participate in masterminds and micro-groups. I jumped at the chance.
A mastermind group is a peer-to-peer mentoring group that helps members solve their problems with input and advice from the other group members.
The virtual mastermind groups that I attend meet weekly. They have fifteen to twenty members. There are no written materials. Each person has an opportunity to ask a question or seek assistance with a problem. A specific amount of time is allocated for the other participants to respond and offer their advice. We get help with our individual issues and learn from the solutions to others’ issues.
A micro-group is a small peer-to-peer discussion group that is formed to focus on a specific area of interest to the group members.
The virtual micro-groups that I attend meet monthly. They are much smaller, with five to eight members. They are formed around a specific area of interest, such as leadership. Each meeting is focused on a topic selected by the group leader. There may be written materials. The members discuss the topic, sharing their knowledge and experience. We may have a philosophical conversation, create an action plan, or gain new perspectives on the topic.
Peer Learning Groups
A peer learning group is a small peer-to-peer learning group that validates and adds to the members’ knowledge, targets a real workplace challenge, builds new skills, and reinforces them with practice.
I do not attend a peer learning group, but I have created them. They meet virtually in two scheduled sessions a month apart. They have five members. They are formed around a current shared challenge. They have a formal workbook with discussion points and new information. The members share their knowledge and experience about the challenge and learn new techniques to handle it. They practice using an alternative approach for a month and return to report on their experience in the second session.
There are seven major differences between mastermind groups, micro-groups, and peer learning groups: (1) topic relevancy; (2) topic currency; (3) facilitation; (4) problem solving; (5) planned learning; (6) expected action; and (7) accountability.
In a mastermind group, individual members focus on an issue that is current for them, but not necessarily current or relevant for the other members. One or more facilitators guide the discussion. Solutions to a problem or answers to a question are sought. New learning generally occurs, although it is not formally planned. It is up to the individual member whether to take action. There may be some follow-up conversation at a subsequent meeting, but the members are not formally held accountable.
In a micro-group, members focus on a topic that may be relevant, but there is no guarantee that it will be current or actionable for them. There is a group leader who decides the topic of discussion. New learning is incidental. Problems may occasionally be discussed, and solutions proposed, but that is not the purpose of the micro-group. There may be some follow-up conversation at a subsequent meeting, but the members are not formally held accountable.
In a peer learning group, the members focus on a problem that is current and relevant for all members. There is no facilitator. New learning is formally built into the group process. There is an expectation that alternative solutions to the problem will be learned and that all members will be held accountable for taking subsequent action to implement one of the alternatives.
We are social beings. It is very natural for us to want to interact with other people. We like to discuss issues, get answers to questions, solve problems, and learn from and contribute to other people’s knowledge and experience.
It ultimately depends on what we want from our peer-to-peer interactions: mentoring with a mastermind group, discussion with a micro-group, or learning with a peer learning group. Of course, we don’t have to make a choice. We can participate in all three!
Deborah Laurel, Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer, The Peer Learning Institute
Question: How have you benefitted from participation in a mastermind, micro-group, or peer learning group?
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