Time for a: “role play”, “group assignment”, “project group”, “interactive networking”, “pitching practice”, “public speaking”, “the chance to share your fears out loud”?
Have I made you uncomfortable yet?
Good. You’ve heard it a thousand times “the more connected we are the less connected we are” and yes you’ve probably read it in a meme on the platforms disconnecting us! So is it time to get back to face to face contact?
Humans are, by nature, incredibly social creatures (even introverts!). A few days locked up writing or tending the farm or hiding from the heat anI crave company and engaging in multiple syllable words!
Yet quiet often we are more prepared to invest time and money into solo endeavours, on-line courses and programs without giving the same kudos to investing in connections with other people.
I first came to realise the benefits of group learning when I joined my mothers group over 16 years ago. After the first awkward meeting I could not wait to get to back to the group and ask all the questions I wasn’t game to ask my own mother. I still refer to the group for solutions and ideas involving my now teenage kids. They (as well as @parent TV) remain my parenting brains trust.
As well as anecdotal information on the benefits of group learning a myriad of studies confer there are more pros than cons to “socially shared cognition”.
How good does it feel to step out of our comfort zone meet new people and learn something new? How great does it feel to share something we know that can benefit somebody else? When we take the leap we enjoy it - and yet we sometimes hold back from taking up those opportunities.
When we get together with others we have the opportunity to learn new things. When we come together we can re-enforce our own beliefs or be challenged by new ideas. And when we extend our networks to those people outside of our usual circles the magic can happen. By getting together as a group to brainstorm or problem solve it helps us as individuals to learn and perform.
Not a new idea
The idea of coming together in a small, focused group to learn from each other has been around for centuries. In 1727, Benjamin Franklin created a club called Junto with the purpose of generating debate and exchanging ideas. Group members shared a “spirit of inquiry and a desire to improve themselves, their community, and to help others”. In the 1930’s Franklin Roosevelt developed a “brains trust” of academics to help advise him on all forms of political matters. A political model that continues today.
Over time we have developed different ways of tapping into the wisdom of others: brains trusts, masterminds, business groups, interactive workshops, networking events, book clubs all present group learning opportunities whereby the subconscious desire for group harmony, combined with the desire to impress can result in more big picture thinking than you might get to on your own.
For small business owners and solo entrepreneurs this is particularly vital. It can be lonely being an entrepreneur – especially if you have moved from working in a team environment to being responsible for everything yourself.
And entrepreneurship can be exhausting. Anita Roddick, the late founder of The Body Shop admitted “Nobody talks about entrepreneurship as survival, but that’s exactly what it is and what nurtures creative thinking”.
Sharing your ideas and exposing yourself to new ideas can be challenging as well as exciting. Having people critique your business can be akin to someone lambasting your favourite hobbies. We can get defensive and ignore it or we can take on constructive criticism and then ignore it – or we can take it on and make changes.
There are well documented personal and business benefits group learning including:
- The power of turning up – Introverts can benefit from the obligation to be social by having to turn up. Extroverts – well they don’t need an excuse! And you are dedicating time to working 'on' your business.
- Accountability – the group is relying on you to turn-up, have achieved what you committed to and will be open and honest with their feedback for you. There’s nothing like a deadline to get you focussed.
- Extended networks – some of the members of the group might be friends, others might associates or strangers – both the group and the networks of each of the group members help build your existing network. You might even make new friends!
- Fresh eyes – reviewing your own business regularly and having feedback from people who are prepared to support you will help generate new ideas or re-enforce your current thinking – both are wins for your business direction.
- A safe place to grow – fear and frustration form part of the business journey. Mistakes are not failures. By building your business with a group who you trust with you can share innermost concerns and your successes.
This month we launched the first iteration of our new business venture Beyond Business Groups. Beyond Business Groups provides guided learning for small groups, where they meet face-to-face each month to have fun, share, learn and take action on their business. They run like a book group. But instead of monthly books, there are monthly modules with a focus on different business areas over the course of a year.
I congratulate those people who have already signed up to start a group - with the openness to learn from and give to others your business is bound to succeed. You've moved beyond feeling uncomfortable.
For those of you holding off – what have you got to lose? You can still sign-up til the end of the February and you only need three people to start.
In the words of the great self-help author Napoleon Hill "Don't wait. The time will never be just right. Start where you stand, and work whatever tools you may have at your command and better tools will be found as you go along."