What is the value of professional peer groups?

The pace of business today demands unprecedented speed and agility. Rapid time-to-market requirements leave no room to reinvent the wheel in order to achieve competitive profits. However, If you work in isolation, you repeat the same mistakes others have made. (Unless you’re Victor Frankenstein… then you’re the benchmark.)

So how do you come up with effective and efficient strategies in a limited amount of time? You guessed it from the title: peer groups.

Peer networks present a ready-made community for absorbing best practices. They also allow you to learn from the collective experience of members through benchmarking, new technology, and community perspective.

Benchmarks

Professional peer groups enable you to get a first-hand impression of the industry as well as gain insightful benchmarks on performance.

In an exclusive peer group setting, managers can find the answers they need. Say for example, what are the benchmarks? Are sales in a certain region higher for my company because I have a competitive advantage or is overall market demand high?

Or even something as specific as comparing a company spending too much on billboard advertising to peers who may be finding more success going the digital route. Great realizations always begin with simple conversations.
From these conversations comes the comfort of realizing you aren’t alone in the difficulties you experience in business. Maybe your business problems are industry-wide and not specific to your management style, organizational structure, and so on. Along the way, you may discover a few cool new tools and techniques that you weren’t previously exposed to.

cartoonNew Technology

Personally, I have friends that are early adapters to new technology and I always refer to them when a new phone or app comes out that I’m thinking about getting. They’ve come to expect questions like “What should I get?” or “What are the use case and benefits of X and Y?” from me.

In a larger scale business sense, maybe one of your peers is already using marketing automation or a CRM and your company is exploring those options. Advertisements and testimonials are great, but an an honest evaluation carries weight. After all, there’s a reason why ConsumerReports has been around since 1936.

Community Perspective

As your peer group forums and discussions are had, you begin to gain a real community perspective of your day-to-day obligations and the real obstacles facing your professional goals. This is a key remedy to burnout and stagnation of your job.

Professionals who work in isolation are not only at risk to repeat the same mistakes as others, but also increase the chance of occupational burnout. This psychological stress is characterized by exhaustion, apathy, and feelings of ineffectiveness which result in low job performance. Surely everyone has come across this feeling at some point in their career.

However there’s a solution, studies have shown that peer groups are more effective at reducing burnout and increasing job satisfaction than unsupervised time off. These groups are a vital conduit to new ideas and fresh perspectives which can help re-stimulate and challenge professionals experiencing burnout.

In that lies the key to peer groups. They give you a process that helps you find your own answers. They allow you to hear the methods other people have used to solve problems and to learn from what they have done. They give you permission to pivot and try a different path. They also allow you to hear the questions you’re not asking and consider how the answers to those questions might be valuable for you and your business.

All of this theory and talk of the benefits are great, but good business practices tell us to look at the results. Let’s list a concrete example of this in action, shall we?

The Inklings

One of the best examples of a peer group in action are The Inklings. They were an informal literary discussion group associated with the University of Oxford and composed of various writers, including C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

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