Why we think peer learning is the best way to learn about startups
After more than 20 years in entrepreneurship and with the last 5-6 focused mostly on education, I think we are going to fool ourselves if we think entrepreneurship can be taught.
Usually the skill to get accurate information is not learned through a teacher but through practice in discerning how to make sure the information we receive is accurate.
During the time spent on my last project, I realized that the number of tools and the total knowledge available for entrepreneurs is not only enormous but also growing exponentially. So, I don’t think a teacher can keep up.
Triggered by an experiment run by Sugata Mitra few years ago in India, I started my research on peer learning. There are many models in peer learning, starting from the traditional model used by schools like Montessori or Waldorf to the more innovative learning groups where peers form partnerships and assist each other.
This is the model we chose for The Underdogs. But because we know how hard it is to form new connections especially with new persons, we decided to have a professional coach to manage and organize those small learning groups.
Of course a lot of knowledge can be transferred inside the group but we totally encourage 1-1 meetings as well once the group is formed.
What outcomes does The Underdogs aim?
We aim to help all the groups achieve the outcomes we envisioned for them, but some of them are not so easily achieved and need individual commitment from each member of the group.
This is what you should expect:
Self and peer assessment - these learning groups provide enough opportunities to get feedback from the peers and from the facilitator. All the feedback any peer will receive act like a mirror and this can provide opportunities for better self assessments.
Communicate knowledge and ideas - Concepts and ideas often occurs through testing them on others and the ability to express your ideas and concepts.
New learnings - Entrepreneurship require founders to develop self-management skills and managing others as well. Being in a group, peers can take collective responsibility and identify their own learning needs and with the support of the chair can plan how to address them.
Cross Promotions - Each member of a group has his own network. When you’re joining a group you will most likely have access to each other’s network. It will be natural to find ways to help each other through promoting to your respective networks.
Critical thinking and reflection - Challenging the existing way of thinking is the main role for the chair. It provides opportunities to help peers learn how to ask questions rather than simply responding.
You are not alone in this - As a founder, even if you have co-founders there are issues you can’t address inside the team. working with a peer group much learning takes place from sharing experiences, knowledge and skills. This way one can acknowledge the background of his or her peers and this can help develop collaborative skills. Being engaged in your learning group can help you increase confidence and self-esteem.
Why does it need to be facilitated?
Mastermind groups are usually organized by founders themselves but there are many reasons these informal arrangements are not so powerful as those managed by a professional coach.
Actually we started this project by letting founders create their groups and self-organize the meetings and everything. But we soon found out that it’s super hard to find your peers first and it’s super hard to keep the group organized.
Another reason we decided to launch this type of group is because the founder population is super fragmented, there are so many stages, so many domains, so many skills and organizing a group like this already requires a high level of expertise. Also, for most of the founders it is very hard to recognize the important work.
The competitive nature of many founders may make the idea of collaboration inside a group impossible. And sometimes some founders refuse to believe that they can learn something valuable from others. But we choose groups carefully and the chair’s role is to help even the most introvert members express their knowledge offering value to the group.
The role of the chair is to facilitate the meetings without being overly managed. Providing structure within a supportive environment is the main challenge for our chairs.
Why is it online?
We think with the development of the internet, meeting online is more and more similar with in person meetings. Our groups are practically meeting face to face where every member should join on camera and act like they are in the same room.
We use many collaborative tools to let everyone in the groups express their ideas or concept and they can use collaborative platforms like google docs, and they can even share their screens.
Having these meetings online has 2 main advantages: getting the best mix of people in the group and it saves time. Now that we can search not only in your neighborhood for peers, but you can now join a group where people are from all over the world, we have a plethora of diversity within the group, which create new opportunities for innovation. And, instead of having to travel to one place to meet your peers, now you can save these hours by meeting online.
For us, working on this project create a great opportunity to use all our previous knowledge gained to help hundreds, if not thousands, of startups learn how to start.
Joining now, you can have access not only to your peers knowledge, but also to everything we learned about startups and learning.