“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Helen Keller
A recent virtual management development workshop on peer-to-peer problem solving proved the power of peer-to-peer collaborative learning. The managers came from different parts of the company and geographic locations. They were randomly assigned to ten breakout rooms.
Solving a Shared Challenge
The groups were given a choice of challenges facing their industry in 2021. Their charge was to define the problem, identify the root causes, propose alternative solutions, select a solution, and create an implementation and accountability plan.
They did a magnificent job of determining root causes and coming up with thoughtful solutions and implementation plans. One group scribe summed up the experience by saying that, because each member of her group represented a different part of the company, they had a unique opportunity to hear and discuss each other’s perspectives on the problem. This led to a wide variety of solutions that they would never have identified on their own.
The Value of Peer-to-Peer Problem-Solving
When asked at the conclusion of the session: “What value did you see in problem-solving with your peers?” the managers answered that they valued the different expertise, diversity, insight, opinions, and perspectives of their “brilliant” group members. The groups were trusting, which inspired honesty and creativity, generated great ideas, and helped them get to solutions faster and to create better solutions.
What they valued the most was the collaboration, the connection, the camaraderie, the new understandings, and having “new peeps in my network.”
The Value of Peer-to-Peer Collaborative Learning
Their response to “What will you do differently now when you need to solve an organizational problem?” showed their appreciation of peer-to-peer collaborative learning.
They committed to reaching out and asking for help, taking time to connect and collaborate, encouraging participation, seeking out opinions and gathering perspectives, listening more intently and challenging their own biases, engaging with others and leveraging relationships, bouncing ideas off others, getting feedback, staying open-minded, allowing others more room, and talking things through.
This was a wonderful opportunity for the managers to learn from and with their peers as they collaborated and bonded over solving shared challenges- and they valued the experience. Peer-to-peer learning is very powerful!
Question: Do your managers have many opportunities to collaborate with their peers from across the company?
Deborah Laurel, Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer, The Peer Learning Institute