Last week, I posted Where Do Peer Advisory Groups Come From? and invited members of the Executive Street community and members of The Peer Advisory Group on LinkedIn to weigh in. In a response on LinkedIn, Vistage Chair John Younker offered his expertise on the contributions of the scholars cited (by him) in the original post. I also discovered a post by Valerie Taloni which provided some interesting information as well. It seemed appropriate to share these contributions with this community as (Part 2) of Where do Peer Advisory Groups Come From?
Let me start with John Younker: “The Peer Advisory Group concept is based upon the work and findings of several key Field Researchers. Some of the more notable contributors to our present day understanding of how we learn and the factors which enable us to most effectively apply and integrate our newly acquired knowledge, skills and abilities to perform, and learning phenomenon that is known today as the “experiential learning model,” include Kurt Lewin, Ronald Lippitt, W.R. Bion, Carl Rogers, Michael Murphy and Peter Senge.
“Kurt Lewin’s work, in 1944 – 46, with the Center for Group Dynamics, in the area of Experiential Learning, lead to his formulation of the Training Group concept or, more widely known as the T-Group. He began his work at The University of Iowa’s Child Research Center, and continued on at The Research Center for Group Dynamics at MIT, in 1946, and ending, with his death in 1947, as he was co-founding and establishing the National Training Lab (NTL).
“Another key contributor was Ronald Lippitt, who, in the summer of 1946, along with Kurt Lewin, among others, became involved in Leadership and Group Dynamics training. They designed and implemented, what was at that time, a leading edge two-week program, in experiential learning that fostered and encourage group discussion and decision-making, and where all of the participants (including the staff researchers) could treat each other as peers.
“Wilfred Bion studied group dynamics in the late 50’s and into the 60’sfrom a psychoanalytic perspective. He discovered several mass group processes which involved the group as a whole adopting an orientation which, in his opinion, interfered with the ability of a group to accomplish the work it was nominally engaged in. His research into group dynamics in reported in his published books, especially so in , Experiences in Groups, which The Tavistock Institute has further developed and applied the theory and practices developed by Bion.
“Carl Rogers, at the Western Behavioral Studies Institute (WBSI) in La Jolla, California, and Michael Murphy, a co-founder of the Esalen Institute, both made significant contributions to the fields of group dynamics and peer-to-peer interactive learning. These two concepts became key factors in adult learning in the organization/corporate settings. Murphy was most noted for his research and application of the concept he call, the Encounter Groups. Fritz Perl also made a significant contribution in this area and these learning groups were later to be known as sensitivity (or sensory) awareness groups and training groups (or T-groups). The encounter groups were an outgrowth of studies conducted by Kurt Lewin and Ron Lippitt. The use of continual feedback, participation, and observation by the group encouraged the analysis and interpretation of their issues and problems.
“And finally, but certainly by no means the least of the contributors to the learning theory and concepts which are at the foundation pf the Peer Advisory Group, I need to acknowledge Peter’s Senge’s work with his Learning Organization Model (The Fifth Discipline) and its; significant impact on the use of groups as a vehicle for promoting learning and human growth.”
Valerie Taloni cites the founding fathers and a group led by Andrew Carnegie as examples of Mastermind or Peer Advisory Groups. Here’s an excerpt of what she wrote: “The Founding Fathers were essentially a Mastermind Group. The roots of mastermind groups for business go back to the early 1900’s, and to Napoleon Hill. Mr. Hill wrote about the concept of the Mastermind Group in his best seller Think and Grow Rich, which was first published in 1937. In the book, he wrote that belonging to a mastermind group is one of the 13 steps to riches. Napoleon Hill said the principle of the mastermind involves an alliance of two or more minds working in perfect harmony, to reach a common definitive goal. When two minds come together, an invisible force appears which is like a third mind. When individual minds are synchronized and work in harmony, the higher energy created through the alliance becomes available to every member of the group. According to Napoleon Hill, success depends on individual effort, but you would be deceiving yourself if you believe that you can succeed without the cooperation of others. The mastermind principle was brought to Napoleon Hill’s attention by billionaire industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who attributed his entire fortune to his mastermind group of about fifty people, with whom he surrounded himself for the purpose of manufacturing and marketing steel.”
Again, while I believe we’re still scratching the surface here, the more I learn about where peer advisory groups came from, the easier it is to understand why they are so effective today. Whether you’re a CEO who would benefit from the counsel of other CEOs with different experiences but who share common challenges, or a business leader trying to leverage an organization’s investment in executive development and create stronger alignment, you can draw upon the practices of Franklin and Carnegie for your organization’s benefit. Feel free to add your findings to the narrative about where peer advisory groups come from in the Comments section. I also invite you to join The Peer Advisory Group on LinkedIn and ask your LinkedIn “peers” to do so as well!