Peer Learning Groups as Management Labs

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“A lab mindset can be thought of as a new pair of glasses that provides a way to see the world and your situation with more clarity and understanding. The mindset opens you to a new adventure of discovery.” M.J. Hall

Beyond Sharing Knowledge and Experience

Peer learning groups, small groups of managers meeting regularly or from time to time to discuss their management challenges, are a great opportunity to share knowledge, experience and listen to other perspectives. The peer learning group process offers a number of real benefits, including collaborative teamwork, psychological safety, and options for addressing a current management challenge.

However, the major focus and real benefit of the peer learning group process is the experimentation that occurs during and between the two learning and reflection sessions.

The Power of Experimentation

In her article “Creating a Lab Mindset,” M.J. Hall inadvertently gives what is an apt description of the Peer Learning Group Process:

In the learning space, the overarching aim of a lab atmosphere is to create an engaging and interactive environment for participants to connect, collaborate, and to share learning practices around a professional conundrum or a business challenge. This starts with piquing their curiosity and then, just like a science lab, using a disciplined framework with a structure built around tools, techniques, and methods to promote collaboration, experimentation, and sharing. And, like a science lab, this is not just doing the experiments per se; it is about reflecting on what happened, who did what, the lessons learned, and ideas for continuing to develop and use the learning in the follow-on experiments.”

Creating a Lab Mindset in Peer Learning Groups

The Peer Learning Group Process begins with a multi-group team building session intended to engage the managers in building trustful relationships so they are willing to connect and collaborate. Their curiosity is piqued by the need to handle their management challenge more effectively and by the attraction of the new peer learning group experience.

The peer learning group then essentially serves as a lab for management experimentation.

The first work session is structured to walk the peer learning group members through discussion of their learning practices around an existing business challenge. The members develop a growth or lab mindset as the process promotes collaboration and experimentation with new behaviors to respond to that challenge.

The following month involves reinforced experiments as the managers test those new behaviors, with a commitment to practice and with support from their peer buddy, weekly microlearning tips and an activity log. The managers understand that they will probably make mistakes, but that is part of learning process. They know they will not grow their skills if they don’t take risks, which is what a lab mindset is all about.

The group members return for a second work session, during which time they reflect “on what happened, who did what, the lessons learned, and ideas for continuing to develop and use the learning.”

Now More Important Than Ever Before

Organizational processes and work relations have become more complex and unpredictable as virtual relationships replace the traditional links between people, departments, and the market. The traditional best practices which can be learned from standard business books and training courses no longer apply.  A lab mindset is needed because, as M.J. Hall notes, “This is no longer business as usual, and what worked yesterday will not work tomorrow.”

Peer learning groups provide the lab in which managers can experiment to develop new ways for handling real issues in their organization.

For more information about peer learning groups and how they can benefit your organization, schedule a mutually convenient time to chat with one of our learning specialists:

Deborah Laurel, Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer, The Peer Learning Institute

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