How Can The Traditional CEO Peer Learning Group Model Survive in Today’s World?

peer group

Many CEO’s and Business owners are familiar with the idea of a confidential peer-group forum. The merits of these traditional collaborative and learning groups are undeniable. More and more, business owners are recognizing the benefits of shared learning and accountability among their peers.

This concept of peer-to-peer groups has been well recognized as a sound and proven business strategy since 1950’s. Essentially, CEO peer groups allow for more well-rounded and multi-faceted business decisions. A group of 12 to 18 chief executives get together to discuss the opportunities and challenges pertaining to their business; by voicing and sharing their experience, knowledge and possible solutions together they are able to gain fresh perspectives, various ideas and test assumptions as well as hold each other accountable.

These traditional CEO peer group sessions, typically all day affairs, tackle specific issues often not only on the business; there is a lot more going on in those meetings. “At the heart of these sessions is a conversation about life. Creating a safe and non-judgmental environment allows participants the freedom to reveal to others their life dreams and challenges, and in the process, show to themselves obstacles in the way of, and opportunities open to them for achieving their goals…translating into an experience that is effective, valuable and liberating.”

Moreover, the peer group experience can build friendships that last a lifetime and can open the doors to diverse ways of thinking, varying cultures and unique perspectives.

Based on my conversations with many peer-group members and forum chairs, while the wisdom and value of a peer group is quite clear here are 6 glaring deficiencies in the traditional model. 

  1.  One size fits all. Not all individual personalities and situations are the same. Some businesses are start-ups, others are mature and some need growth. The group members may have very diverse goals that can hinder the progress of the peer group.
  2. The world has changed. Thanks to online collaboration and the advent of so many technological advances the peer group model must also adapt.
  3. Time is an issue. Most CEO’s cannot (and should not) spend 1+ full day each month with peer group members.
  4. Top of Mind. Often the issues discussed during peer group meetings are what are on the members’ minds at the time and not a collective list of gathered and tracked issues that have arisen between meetings.
  5. Timeliness. Waiting for a monthly meeting to discuss an issue with a group of insightful peers runs counter to today’s fast paced information rich environment.
  6. Instant Access to Resources. Access to information is almost instant with resources like Google, Youtube and Yahoo.  So experts are available at almost anytime to provide rich content for decision-making

These drawbacks can be easily remedied in today’s environment by taking advantage of connectivity through technology. While it may seem that technology is a simple answer, let’s look at the ways technology can improve a peer-learning group.

Thanks to technology and other options peer groups can work in virtual meetings with fewer face to face meetings that by no means can (or should) be completely eliminated. Skype, social networking in private online communities, and email as well as being able to group text and compile information on specific topics over time allows the members of the group to fully look at the possibilities for any issue that arises.

The peer group model will have to adapt and grow along with members’ businesses.  Group members should each bring a different viewpoint to the group for a well-rounded and multi-faceted modern and technology savvy approach to problem solving, growth and creative answers to day-to-day issues and modern-day challenges. Don’t forget, the future CEO’s (and potential members) of peer groups have cut their teeth in a world surrounded by (and are absolutely comfortable with) Facebook, Twitter, Skype, YouTube, GoToMeeting to name but just a few models that didn’t even exist a decade ago.

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About smudan

Coach to CEO's and Business Owners with an end game or transition in mind while simultaneously building the equity value of their enterprise and creating a better life/work balance.

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