Peer Learning Has Deep Roots


business peer groupMany businesses and just about all SMEs face the very real challenge to transform business cultures from what Henry Chesbrough termed closed innovation cultures to open innovation cultures that are conducive to collaboration. There are so many financial and sustainable advantages to this transformation.

Yet, this is not a transformation that is easy. First of all, this transformation requires concessions by management. Secondly, the transformation requires the business to acknowledge that the marketplace has shifted. Despite a preponderance of confirming data, existing SMEs remain stubbornly ingrained in the culture that got them off the ground.

In a sense, it is understandable. After all, it took a certain structure to get this far. If the business has survived or even prospered during what has admittedly been a most challenging period, a case can certainly be built for maintaining the course.

But, at some point, reality must be addressed. The face of the competition is changing and changing rapidly. Whereas SMEs used to know the competition, that is no longer the case. Competition can come from a mammoth international provider or from a startup still working in a garage. With many consumers turning to the Internet for services as well as products, every company must be prepared to find new partners to help with any number of challenges.

In all this transformational activity, peer learning has emerged as one of the most effective means to implement cultural change. You have heard it a  million times, but it has never been truer that change is good and change is accepted.

The Art, Science, or Profession of Teaching

Peer learning has roots, deep roots. The new rage for innovative and collaborative businesses has roots in something called pedagogy or the “art, science, or profession of teaching.” As you might suspect, pedagogy is derived from the ancient Greek culture where a child (paidos) was overseen by a slave(agopos) who had a lifetime of experience to draw upon.

Socrates was a modest man. He insisted that his knowledge was limited but that it expanded when he interacted with peers. His most famous peer turned out to be Plato, who subscribed to the theory that there were an “enlightened few.”

His type of peer learning has been advanced by some of the world’s most famous scholars, including John Dewey and Russian Lev Vygotsky, the proponent of “constructionist” learning. Chances are good that no matter how large or small your enterprise is, the business could benefit from peer learning. After all, every generation has since the firs teachings of man.


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