Over the past year I have been working on the Creative Scale Up programme in the West of England – having co-designed and co-delivered a Peer-to-Peer support strand with Gill Wildman (via Watershed).
The P2P idea was in part inspired by a conversation with Sammy Payne, CEO of Open Bionics, who described how she and two other founders had created an important mutual self help group as their businesses rapidly grew.
60 businesses have now been through Creative Scale Up across three cohorts. Within that we created small peer groups who met regularly within a framework which prompted discussion around company structure and culture, growth and business development, investment and financing, and more. Although effectively what we did was provide a safe space and prompt for sharing experience. Our rules were Chatham House, be respectful, one idea at a time….
Many of the CEOs were experiencing the familiar difficulties of business expansion, but also the significant stresses of being the visible leader, having to confidently provide direction despite no prior experience. So, alongside the peer group meetings we had a series of more established CEOs come and tell their stories of lessons learned. More than one commented “this feels like a therapy session”.
Covid shifted all but the very first meeting in March 2020 online. And whilst this lost the physical networking dynamic, we still managed to curate the ability to connect people – it just required an attitude from the participants, one of deliberate openness.
At the last gathering the underlying theme was one of confidence, confidence in direction identified and decisions made, but also confidence derived from learning from the thoughts and actions of others – because even though the businesses may have been very varied (in size and subsector), there were relatable common themes and an ability to step into the shoes of others in a positive and impactful way.
We learned a lot on the way about how to foster and prompt a productive inter-personal collaboration. And now thoroughly road tested hope to produce a new programme soon – plus also get together a group of people who have shared a lot but only met each other on a screen.