5 reasons why learning from your peers really works

5 Reasons why learning from your peers really works. Article from Tina O'Dwyer of The Tourism Space.
Image: Deirdre McGlone, former owner of Harvey's Point Hotel, at The Tourism Space LIVE 2020.

“So, would you speak at The Tourism Space LIVE? I’d love if you’d share your story with delegates.”

“Thanks very much for asking Tina but I’m not sure you have the right person.”

“Oh, I do. I greatly admire the journey you and your business have made in tourism. It’s truly inspirational, when I heard your story I had a lump in my throat. It can inspire others too. I’d love for you not just to tell your story but to teach it.”

“Ah thanks again but really, we never wrote down a business plan in our lives! I’ve never done a tourism course. I’ve been lucky. I couldn’t teach anybody anything.”

With a bit more convincing and cajoling, this same person did in fact take the stage at The Tourism Space LIVE and he made a huge impact.  The funny thing is that I had very similar conversations with almost every tourism practitioner that I’ve asked to speak at our national conference or in smaller training environments. Some are more self-deprecating, some less-so but nearly all thinking it's a bit mad that somebody is asking them to ‘teach’ their story.

I’ve known intuitively for a long time that learning from our peers is a highly effective form of learning. I try very hard to create spaces at our events and in our training programmes for people to hear from people like themselves in order to advance their learning. I know from feedback from our conference delegates, training participants, one-to-one clients and our weekly Member Huddle that the most impactful learning and the most memorable lessons have not come from me or any other ‘expert’, but from their peers.

 Image: Mary Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald's Woodlands House Hotel Adare at The Tourism Space LIVE 2020.

Here are my observations of The Top 5 reasons learning from our peers really works. 

1. Language

Our peers use the same language as us and that means we absorb it much more readily.  There’s no academic or training parlance. It’s language that makes instant sense to the audience.  As an example, I once introduced a guest by saying she would talk about ‘search engine optimisation’. She started by saying she would be talking about ‘how to get found high up on Google.’ See the difference?

2. Story-telling

Without frameworks, theories and scientific studies, industry practitioners lead out with stories, usually personal stories, to share what they have learned.  Stories engage us emotionally and invite us into the world of the person speaking. Because the world of the teacher and the learner are very similar in peer-to-peer environments, that engagement is much higher.   

3. Freshness

When a practitioner takes the time to think about how they can teach their story, rather than just tell it, the insights are often new even to themselves.  They are so fresh that they are delivered with added spark and energy that is absent from somebody who hasn’t lived the same experience.   

4. Identification

Practitioners readily identify with each other – they are in the same place at the same time and there are few psychological barriers to asking questions or offering comment. That’s entirely different to our traditional classroom environment where the person at the top of the room is deemed to have authority based on their superior knowledge or skill.   

5. Credibility

The most obvious one of all.  No practitioner will ever be accused of being removed from reality or comfortable in their ivory tower. They are present and speaking because they have walked the talk and learned a lesson or two from it.  Our often subconscious objection to their right to tell us what to do subconsciously evaporates.   

It’s for all these reasons that being part of a strong network or a mastermind group can be so important.  They are powerful spaces for peer-to-peer learning.  2020 has highlighted the importance of networks and here's hoping that value on peer connections continues to strengthen into the future.


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