The benefits of peer to peer learning
For the last year or so, we’ve been facilitating a series of peer action learning groups as part of our business development programme. ‘But what is peer action learning?’ I hear you cry! I posed a few questions to a group of mid-career makers who take part in one of the mid-career groups. This what they had to say:
How would you describe action peer learning to other makers?
- Its regular meetings with the same group of makers to discuss issues, share ideas and exchange thoughts on a range of issues that affect us as mid-career makers. We then take away from we’ve leant, put it into action, and continue the discussion the next we meet.
- Our coffee meets combine networking, coaching, and peer support all in one neat package.
- It works because we all have enough experience that we have something useful to share, and because the group is small enough that it feels more like just a chat with friends than an arduous business meeting.
- The meetings are facilitated by someone from Cockpit which is great. They make sure the discussions are productive, but flexible so that discussions can evolve organically.
Broadly speaking, what are the main benefits of meeting with your peers in this way?
- It’s a great platform for exchanging ideas and sharing specialist knowledge.
- I get the chance to regularly reflect on pertinent business issues, and to get the opinions of colleagues whose experience and insight I value.
- It gives you a space to consider the wider picture of your business.
- There are always a couple of really on point helpful suggestions for the issues you are facing.
- It’s good to share positives as well as negatives; you’d be surprised what you can take from this experience. Peers can see things in your business that you may not be able to.
- We meet away from the studio, so it’s a welcome breather from the day-to-day busyness. Plus, we get to eat cake!
How does peer learning differ from other professional development opportunities that you might get involved with?
- The fact that it’s a small group of craft specialists on similar career paths means that discussions are focussed and productive.
- It’s a healthy mix of disciplines, and we have a lot to learn from each other.
- The format is especially conducive to the sharing of insider knowledge and chance opportunities.
- It is peer led and peer resolved, which means we set our own agenda and this keeps it relevant.
- The small group size is manageable and comfortable.
- The regular nature gives me the incentive to continuously review how my business is running, and to maintain awareness of changing issues.
- It helps to expand my knowledge of business issues as a whole.
- You get practical advice experiences rather than theoretical ones.
- It’s also a chance to catch up with the same people so there is a familiar, social aspect which helps to counteract the sense of isolation that can accompany working as a sole trader.
Specifically what difference do you think the meetings have made to you and your business?
- The most useful thing that’s come out of it for me is a supplier recommendation which has transformed my business. I’d been having problems with a supplier and one person in the group gave me a lead which turned out to be a big success.
- It has pushed me into employing more people.
- It has helped me to think more strategically about future planning.
- Having the space to regularly think about my business is incredibly useful, and the opportunity to think creatively about the issues facing the rest of the group is also very welcome.
- There are actually so many things! It’s made me sort out my mailing list, more importantly it’s changed the way I consider some things.
- I have become more organised and slightly more efficient, maybe because of these meetings, regularity is good!
What would you say to other makers considering joining or forming a peer action learning group?
- I have found it a very supportive and respectful way to work through business issues.
- I do make sure that I make the meetings, even if I feel pushed for time because they’re valuable on many levels.
- Our peers are a fantastic resource and it’s very rewarding to be involved in this sort of reciprocal relationship.
- I’d highly recommend the idea!
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