Last week I had the privilege of serving on a panel about business planning for the SpokesBUZZ Music Incubator. It was an enlightening experience, in part because it did not resemble the typical style of panel discussions where only the formal panel lectures from the front of the room. Instead, it was engaging, evolved organically and fully incorporated audience participation from the very beginning. I got to thinking, and sharing this experience is a tangible example of a functioning and local Learning Community!
So what does a Learning Community look like?
Based on my experience working with SpokesBUZZ, I have identified 4 elements of a Learning Community.
1. Shared Purpose
SpokesBUZZ is a Northern Colorado nonprofit founded by Dani Grant that is dedicated to advancing the exposure and reach of our local music scene. One way they do that is by handpicking local bands to mentor and support as they learn how to create their vision of rock and roll success.
Everyone in attendance had a shared purpose: learning how to take their band to the next level. This not only helped us stay focused, it also ensured that attendees had a vested interest in the topic that was being explored, even if they didn’t want to deal with the business side of music (for many musicians, thinking of their art as a business means challenging their assumptions)!
2. Meaningful Dialogue
The panel at the Incubator session
From the very beginning of this Incubator session, everyone was actively contributing to the discussion. Unlike the typical panel format where the panelists do most of the talking in direct (you hope) response to the audience’s questions, the participants were asked to share their own ideas, experiences, insights and challenges. As noted in their description, “our music business incubator…meetings are in a laid back, creative setting and generally turn into a genuine conversation about real-life topics which benefit our bands through shared wisdom.”
What really impressed me with this Learning Community was seeing how participants encouraged each other to re-think their limiting beliefs. The discussions in this Incubator session was relevant to the participants; we were meeting everyone where they were. The Music Incubator ushers bands along their journey by providing high level information, tools and resources, as well as a space for learning through meaningful dialogue.
by SpokesBUZZ Wire Faces
3. Give and Take
This community was incredibly supportive of each other. As band members shared their challenges, hopes and dreams, their colleagues not only listened, but provided encouragement and constructive feedback. One of the veteran SpokesBUZZ band members passionately encouraged a novice band to recognize and celebrate the value they had to offer, “I’ve seen you play. You’re energetic and fun! You deserve to get paid more than you charge.”
This kind of give and take is powerful. Participants weren’t just there for themselves. They were eager to help each other, actively listening to the woes of their peers and responding with their own insights. As panelists, we spoke very little (granted I was getting laryngitis and had practically no voice, but despite that), we interjected when we had an observation, to encourage reflection or were responding directly to questions. I may not be an aspiring musician, but I too gained a lot of value out of the experience, as the discussion was inspiring and applicable to business in general!
Participants openly discussed their pains, concerns and fears. There was no judgement or criticism for sharing and exposing “weakness”. We openly talked about failure, and that things don’t always work out the way you plan, but that doesn’t mean you don’t plan or keep working. Representatives from SpokesBUZZ even highlighted some of the challenges, mistakes and efforts gone awry as an organization. All of these situations were framed as learning opportunities. After all, planning is a continuous process, a learning process.
This is just one example of a Learning Community here in Northern Colorado. Likely, there are elements here that could be significant to your own organization, and there are undoubtedly components of a Learning Community we did not explore here. I’m curious to know, would it be valuable to you for me to provide more profiles of Learning Communities on my blog? I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations of Learning Communities to feature as well!