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Harnessing the power of peer pressure in the form of mentorship

When looking at mentorship or coaching in a community of startups or in a workplace setting I have often referred to the power of peer mentorship within a set group as a key component for developing talent. The number of times I have heard a founder say that “it was so nice to know other companies have the same problems as us” is high. The challenge with peer mentorship is that it seems that the education system is a bit conflicted about it. The lack of commitment to peer learning in education means that students need to learn about it on their own. I think is a blow to the development of an entrepreneur and/or a top tier employee. The benefits of peer networks wasn’t known to me until a few years into my working life and I think it put me a number of years behind in my professional development.

With some of the top talent in the tech world being drawn to the incubator/accelerator scene I think it is evidence that peer learning environments and communities are something that talented people are drawn to. TechStars or YCombinator are essentially peer driven learning programs.

Specific to startup talent development, how I think you can best harness peer influence working with early stage companies:

  • Regular dinner events were the founders can demo what they are working on, network, and socialize in a comfortable setting – YCombinator does this as do most other accelerators, incubators. Founders and funders dinners achieve this as well.
  • Open work space where people can openly share what is going with them right now.
  • Someone keeping track of the progress and celebrating success.
What is achieved through this is that the entrepreneur is providing regular updates to their peers and measuring themselves against other people’s performance. The key piece, I believe, is some one tracking that and that people are open about what they are doing.
In the workplace I think a similar result can be achieved by offering a few simple things:
  • Encourage cross-department projects that employees together to achieve a specific outcome or goal.
  • Have meetups for employees on a regular bases (monthly to start) where people can give short presentations on what they are working on.
  • Use tools that allow employees to share achievements and progress across the organization.

There are tools like Yammer that enable employees to share and collaborate. I believe the internet has allowed people to build their own peer learning environment and that is having a big influence on the work place — I am just not sure most businesses understand that shift enough to use it to their advantage. The startup world certainly has.

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