Peer-to-Peer Development


Peer-to-peer development challenges some traditional assumptions about people development. Instead of relying entirely on the wisdom of anointed experts, it assumes that people often learn best from peers who share the same daily struggles of front-line professionals like themselves. Furthermore, peer conversations can provide emotional as well as practical support.

Peer-to-peer development was listed by the Harvard Business Review (Feb. 2006) as one of the 20 "breakthrough ideas for 2006".

Peer-to-peer replaces the one-way flow of information typical of training programs "the pour-and-snore approach" with fluid online conversations.

In peer-to-peer development one or two participants will be asked to bring a problem to the group. The other members give close attention to the problem-holder but will not solve the problem even if the answer is obvious. Rather, they ask open questions and dig deep to enable the problem-holder to get a deeper understanding of his/her problem.

Why it is different

By far the most obvious difference in peer-to-peer learning, is its insistence on questioning and gaining consensus about what the problem is. This forces the problem-solver to spend time on understanding the problem and its context and conditions.

Most individuals and groups rush to search for the answers. This is natural because most people are uncomfortable with spending too much time in ambiguity. The original problem is rarely the one that is most crucial. Groups that accept the initial problem often end up solving the surface problem. The group's first and primary task is to understand the problem. As some wag said: "It's better to first put your finger on the problem before sticking your nose in it."

Normally we search for one right solution, peer-to-peer development recognises there may be multiple right solutions.

Normally we try to eliminate possibilities, ask specific questions, be deterministic and sequential, in peer-to-peer development we collect insights, be holistic, integrate the possibilities, ask open questions and rely more on intuition and synchronousity.

The advantages of Peer-to-peer learning are:

  1. People often learn best from peers who share the same daily struggles as themselves
  2. The issues are real-life, timely and important to the problem-holder
  3. People learn at a far deeper level than having the solution presented on a plate
  4. It builds life-skills in asking questions and challenging people in a positive way
  5. Interestingly most people learn from everyone else's issues as well as their own.

Probable outcomes of Peer-to-peer Learning

  1. Important problems are solved and learning occurs without additional cost or time
  2. Problems are solved by the people who have to make it happen
  3. The organisation becomes a "learning organisation", more open and flexible
  4. Learning occurs at a deeper level
  5. Group members are supported on a continuing basis
  6. Group members are trained in a questioning technique which is a very useful approach for solving problems and helping them learn
  7. Group members develop a deep understanding of each other and their issues
  8. Group members develop responsibility for their own learning
  9. Group members develop a culture of trust and sharing.

How Virtual Group supports Peer-to-peer Learning

Peer-to-peer learning is a development from Action Learning. It's important that the Peer-to-peer Learning Groups are set up properly and that group members have proper training. I have been trained in this technique by a woman we brought out from the UK. I train people with sufficient skills for them to be able to set up and run Peer-to-peer Learning groups throughout the organisation.

  1. We train people in the principles and practice of Peer-to-peer Learning
  2. We work with individuals and groups to establish the beliefs and values required for Peer-to-peer Learning
  3. We act as facilitators until the Peer-to-peer Learning groups are ready to take over the facilitation themselves
  4. We advise in the structural issues and organisational issues that arise with the introduction of Peer-to-peer Learning.

Product support

This product has been developed and is supported by Bruce Holland with help where required from other members of the Virtual Group Business Consultants. Bruce is a specialist in Peer-to-Peer Development Wellington, nationally and internationally. He specialises in public sector Peer-to-Peer Development and in other large private sector organisations.


All work undertaken by Bruce Holland is guaranteed. If at the end of the program the client doesn't feel that they have received value for money, they may adjust the bill and pay an amount equal to the value they feel they received.

Facilitation is a core skill, it's what I'm good at, if you'd like to know more, give me a call.

Bruce Holland, +6421 620456,

Key words: Leadership, leadership development, leadership management, leadership training, leadership program, leadership skills

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