The power of small groups to stay on track

Say you’ve started a course to build some skills.  You need these skills to help you make progress on a long term project. Maybe you joined the course to help you stay on track. When it starts you no doubt feel motivated, even excited!

You eagerly watch the first videos or start reading the notes. You’re moving toward your goal finally. It feels good to have taken action. You are still glowing from the sales copy and the testimonials that gave you the confidence to buy…

How to stay on track in your long term projects

Once started. Long term projects can start to feel daunting can’t they?

Then comes the weekend. Then Monday comes around and for some reason you’re not so excited anymore. It’s the school holidays and the kids are at home and you’ve got to spend time with your family right? Your excitement for the course has already begun to wane. The next day this starts to turn into a sense of dread. Regret even shame.

Now what? How are you going to get through all the material? It seems so huge.

How are you going to force yourself to do the work required? No one will notice if you stop or do nothing. Only you. The course is online. If you don’t mention it, no-one else does either. When you signed up for the course everything seemed to be making sense for you. The things you will be able to do. But you know you’re starting to drift.

Hang on. Whoa there for a minute! Let’s back up…

Something just caught your eye on the course homepage.

Reputation indicators

Classroom Dojo is hugely popular in school classrooms for helping keep kids stay on track on their learning journey.

What is that number near your name in the forum? You didn’t notice it at first. Some people have numbers near their names and you have nothing? Why is that?

Introducing positive public peer pressure online. A simple, subtle and highly effective way to help you make progress with your long term projects.

We all know how effective peer pressure can be don’t we? We just have to think of any social situation and it is quite obvious.

But how can we leverage peer pressure for good online?

Holding yourself accountable in private takes more discipline because there is less to lose. We don’t lose face if we make no progress. Imagine if you could use peer pressure by design as a way to make progress on your long term projects.

Use peer pressure to help to stay on track

How can you leverage peer pressure to help you stay on track toward your goals?

But how can you leverage the power of online peer pressure to make progress with your long term projects? Let’s look at three examples of how it can be done shall we? Forums, reputation indicators and small groups.

How forums can be a self regulating source of positive peer pressure and progress

Posting your daily progress toward your long term projects on your personal Facebook page might not be for you. Maybe there are people in your Facebook friends who you would rather didn’t know about you day to day struggles.

And don’t you suspect that personal Facebook pages are just a little too curated. Because we don’t feel completely safe there do we?

Forums can be entirely different because of the level of control. The rules of a forum can be customised to the group. The number of people in a forum is vastly smaller than the public social networks.

Forums are more focused on a special interest. There are forums on any topic you can care to think of. But just any old forum won’t do will it? They need an essential ingredient. Leadership.

Forums require leadership to create safety

A forum requires a strong leader to set the standards and uphold the rules. This creates a safe place for people to share.

With strong leaders in your forum. People to set the standards and uphold the rules forums begin to feel safe. And pretty soon even the longer term members of the forum become helpers and even moderators. People start doing the right thing from peer pressure and that’s when you know you have found a strong forum. Once you are with a group of people with similar goals and you feel safe the options for positive peer pressure grow dramatically.

For example, I am in a forum for small businesses called 5000bc.  It has an area for posting a particular thing you want to take action on.  Once posted you just start keeping it updated with your progress. Then, depending on your goal, people with a similar interest come out of the woodwork and start offering you support and asking questions.

Forums are really powerful but they do suffer from one drawback. They take time to build and develop a critical mass of like minded people if you want to build your own. Also, you still need to becoming acclimatised to the group and this takes time. If you’re in a rush there is another option that utilises a system from martial arts and Toyota. Reputation scores and points.

How to use reputation scores and indicators to leverage peer pressure?

When the results of our efforts are posted for all to see there is an almost magical effect. Even without talking about it, if indicators of our efforts are posted in a place where people we care about will see our performance starts to improve.

You’ve heard the saying “What get’s measured, improves” and it very true but did you know that primary schools around the world may doing it better than many corporations.

My wife Sam is a primary school teacher. In her class she had adopted a system called Class Dojo. It’s free to set up and Class Dojo is very simple. It’s used by 90% of K-10 schools in the US and according to my wife is also very popular in Australia. There is so much you can do with the system and I won’t go into too much detail here.  One of the things you can do is set-up an electronic scoreboard where you can see all class members on a dashboard in alphabetical order along with their current score. Everyone starts at zero. Before you ask, grades are not listed on the scoreboard!  This is not about punishment or ridicule.

Instead the students earn points for their practice, their participation, staying task, helping others and any other activities you want to encourage. It can also be used to keep track of progress for groups who are working on a particular skill or project.

Classroom Dojo and rewarding desired behaviour.

Class Dojo has a many different ways to reward children with points for the desired behaviour required to help them stay on track.

Every week the kids talk to their teacher about their progress and goals for the week. There is a quick reality check and then a short discussion of how they plan to achieve their goal for the week.

Then during the week, when the teacher notices a student doing something positive they award a point. When that happens there is a happy sound that everyone hears. This little reward is anticipated by the children. When they hear someone else getting a point it just spurs them on more. There are also times when points are removed and this makes a “bah-bow” sound. Everyone knows this sound and the kids hate it. They try to avoid it at all costs.

Sam adds more excitement with prizes for the kids when they reach a certain number of points.  The most popular reward so far for the kids is getting to take off their shoes for the entire day!

Using rewards for the behaviour you want helps students stay on track toward their goals.

The simpler the rewards the better.  It can be as simple as going bare foot for the day!

Can you imagine being allowed to go barefoot for the day in your workplace? The interesting part of Class Dojo are the similarities with the Toyota Production System. This system was created approximately 60-70 years ago and was responsible for the steady and incremental improvement of Toyota from obscurity to the company it is today.

Reputational scores and forums are great but there’s still room for one more source of peer pressure. The extreme power of small groups.

How to unleash the influence of small groups.

Large groups of people can be helpful for taking group action but when you want to make personal progress and take action a small group can be better.  If you have an inner circle of friends you’ll appreciate the power of the peer pressure that can be wielded in small groups.

The power of small groups to stay on track

If you have an inner circle of friends you’ll appreciate the power of positive peer pressure to stay on track.

I am a member of several small groups where we regularly catch up for support. The reason why small groups work are they are less intimidating and have accountability built in.

Let’s say you have a goal that requires you to be doing a particular task everyday over a long period of time. We like to do what we say we’re going to do, right. But the problem is if we just tell ourselves what we’re going to do and we don’t do it there are no repercussions. Depending on your level of discipline you may not even become aware that you are not keeping your commitments to yourself. That’s where masterminds can come to the rescue.

It may just be a simple question of how you’re going with your plans for the week. When you are asked to give an account of yourself and your work to others you will feel far more pain if you haven’t done the work than when just reminding yourself.

Finding an effective mastermind is the key. The biggest mistake you can make with a mastermind is not implementing some sort of accountability check-in system.

So there you have it. Three methods for utilising peer pressure to help you make progress toward your long term goals. Using forums to make and keep track of your commitments, finding and utilising reputational markers that can track your progress and the mastermind.

What tactics do you use to help you stay on track in your long term projects?
Are you interested in creating a course that leverages peer pressure to help students get things done?

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