12 Jun The value of peer learning and accountability in small business
Is your business thriving the way it could be? Are day-to-day demands and distractions taking over and impeding you from working ‘on’ your business? Let alone keeping up with the latest info and tools? This is a huge issue for many solo business owners. Then there’s the other biggie – isolation. Not having people to bounce ideas off, discuss issues with and challenge your thinking can hold your business back. Plus it can be really lonely.
Peer groups can’t be underestimated in small business to accelerate learning, innovation, ideas and taking action on your business, and to avoid isolation.
Collaborative learning, where groups of learners work together, has long been recognised and used by universities and schools, and more recently in big business for professional development and upskilling. Similarly, peer accountability is proven to increase productivity and lead to higher achievement, through inspiration, empowerment and encouragement.
Small businesses can use these concepts to their advantage. In this article we explore the value and benefits of peer learning and accountability, provide you with tips to work together effectively, and relate how Beyond Business Groups harnesses these concepts.
Benefits of collaborative peer groups
Being in a peer learning and accountability group has many benefits for solo business owners:
- You learn more, and faster, when you learn together and help each other. With the different strengths and wisdom of group members you can fill gaps in your knowledge and gain valuable insights. Understanding is increased and deepened.
- Shared expertise and experience. You have your own brains trust and tap into the collective intelligence of your peers.
- You stay motivated and are less inclined to procrastinate, feeling obliged to make an effort for your group.
- There is ongoing support. You can help each other with ideas, to identify opportunities or devise solutions to challenges.
- They are social, giving you regular interaction with people. This is especially important for home-based business owners. Loneliness is a growing issue in society, and particularly for microbusinesses.
- You get different ideas and perspectives which can help to innovate. Two or more heads are better than one, and in a peer group you can gather ideas, obtain different viewpoints and build on each other’s suggestions. People in different industries and with different experience can offer helpful insights, adding to your capacity to improve your business and innovate.
- Peer accountability increases productivity and achievement. Having planned actions to undertake, and making a commitment to them in your group, means you’re more likely to actually do them and keep your business moving forward.
- Increased self-awareness. Your skills and expertise take form when you share your competencies and expertise. You realise what your strengths are.
- You can celebrate your wins and successes with those who are on the journey with you.
- With a group you can soar. Self-imposed limitations can be challenged, blind spots uncovered, new aspirations developed. Together you can push each other to make breakthroughs. Everyone wins and strengthens their businesses.
Tips for successful peer groups
These are our top tips to ensure your collaborative peer group is a success:
- Mutual respect and a cooperative spirit are essential.
- Let your guard down and trust each other, knowing each of you will be kind and constructive.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help and insights.
- Keep communication channels clear and open.
- Listen to different ideas and opinions and expand your horizons.
- Respect confidentiality.
- Face-to-face collaboration is best. While you can connect online, nothing beats being in the same room and engaging in person.
The Beyond Business Groups model
The model we developed for Beyond Business Groups harnesses the benefits of collaborative learning and peer accountability for small businesses. Our program provides guided learning for small groups who meet face-to-face each month to learn, share, have fun and take action. They run like a book group, but instead of monthly books there are monthly modules. The modules contain information, activities and tools designed to help you work on each aspect of your business over the course of a year.
You choose the people in your group so you can surround yourself with the right people. They could be friends also in business, adjacent businesses, or people you’ve met at networking events or in online groups. We suggest an ideal group is 3–6 people, but you could have up to eight.
Each month you read the module, undertake the activities and look at our list of other resources to determine what you want to read, watch or listen to. You take the learning in the direction that suits your business, and go as deep as you want.
Then you get together with your group and catch up on how the month has been, discuss the topic, share what you learned. You can ask for help where you need it, and share and generate ideas about how to apply the learning to your business, and what actions you need to undertake to improve your business.
Whatever style of peer group you choose, learning with, and being accountable to, a group of peers is a proven way to succeed and take your business beyond.