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Simple ways to pair people for learning

Photo By Aleksandra Mazur, Unsplash

Photo By Aleksandra Mazur, Unsplash

When you start bringing the magic of peer-to-peer learning to your organization or community, one of the first things you encounter is the puzzle of how to pair people up.

When a facilitator pairs people up, instead of having them find their own partners, it removes awkwardness and wasted time. It connects each person to someone they can learn from and with quickly. It optimizes the whole group's learning.

Over thousands of tango workshops I have facilitated these past fifteen years or so, I've experimented with dozens of methods to pair people up. Some work far better than others!

For organizational learning contexts, it's important to be aware of the larger outcomes you have in mind. Here is a very simple approach:

  • Is your goal community building? Pair people up using a random strategy. Use any random method, like drawing names from a hat, or a tool like RandomCoffee, Coffee Roulette, or S'Up.
  • Is your goal skill development? Pair people up using a resonance strategy. When people are learning new skills, it can helpful to work with peers who are similar to them in some ways but who have more skill in the area being developed.
  • Is your goal transformation? Pair people up using a dissonance strategy. To drive cultural transformation and many change initiatives, maximum growth and learning comes from pairing people who come from different worlds.

There is a lot more detail I could add about how we might define resonance vs dissonance, and what factors to consider, which I'll address in a future article.

In the next piece, I'll share some examples of learning missions for each of these contexts. If you'd like to learn more about bringing peer-to-peer learning to your organization, please contact me or have a look at the Learning Chrysalis work I do.