The Master Mind

‘Mastermind Groups’ and ‘masterninding’ are becoming part of ‘business jargon’ and people are also finding ways to monetize them by charging people to be members of what seem to be supercharged (n more senses than one) business networking groups.

A ‘Mastermind Group’ (sometimes Master Mind Group or just a ‘MasterMind’) is, according to Wikipedia

a peer-to-peer mentoring concept used to help members solve their problems with input and advice from the other group members. The concept was coined in 1925 by author Napoleon Hill in his book ‘The Law of Success’, and described in more detail in his 1937 book, ‘Think and Grow Rich’.”

Hill used the term to describe groups of people who had been joining together in the United States for some decades earlier, the most notable being the group of people including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott and Henry David Thoreau, in Concord Massachusetts who took part in what became known as the ‘Concord Conversations’.

But the idea of ‘mastermind groups’ had been going for a long time before that – Jesus of Nazareth and his twelve ‘disciples’ could easily be described in this way.

But what is the point of such a gathering of ‘like-minded’ people?

There are several.

Not that long ago before the virus of ‘political correctness’ spread far and wide I used to take part, as an employee and later as a consultant in what we called ‘brainstorming sessions’.

The objective of such sessions was for everyone to throw ideas into the ring in response to a specific question or issue posed by the ‘facilitator’ of the group.

All ideas, no matter how improbable or crazy were accepted and written up on a whiteboard. No-one was allowed to comment on or criticize anything until the time for introducing ideas, or ‘new thought’, was up.

The next step was to categorize ideas, get explanation from the proponents and eventually come up with a list of three to five actions to be taken to resolve the question or issue raised.

These sessions are now usually called ‘masterminding’, but they are not really what Hill’s description of the concept was about.

A second explanation, described by Hill, is the example of Henry Ford and his group of master minds.

Ford gathered together the best people he could find in various fields and employed them to resolve corporate problems. They were effectively his senior management team, his board of directors.

They had different specialties and advised on different aspects of the business, finance, operations, management, marketing and so on.

What was different about Ford was that he did go out of his way to bring in the best people in their fields as Andrew Carnegie did in the steel industry.

In my view this is a somewhat restricted ‘corporate’ idea of the mastermind group and Hill also describes a third type of ‘mastermind’ which is more in the nature of the Concord group of the previous century.

I consider this to be the correct interpretation of the concept – in as much as anything can be ‘correct’.

An effective mastermind group is as defined in Wikipedia (sometimes they do get it right!) as being a peer-to-peer mentoring group.

Members do not need to come from different disciplines, and they should not be part of a single organisation as is found with the previously described groups. They should have something in common however which may be on an intellectual or emotional level or a similar belief pattern.

It still works if members hold different beliefs provided they are not dogmatic about them.

The idea is that when the group meets, one member should present a problem, an issue, or a case to be discussed. Then, rather than following the ‘brainstorm’ ritual or the somewhat similar ‘action learning’ or ‘synergy group’ process, the group will then fully discuss the matter and perhaps argue and debate different aspects or potential solutions.

They may or may not come up with a definitive ‘answer’ but the object of the exercise is to assist the member raising the ‘issue’ with their understanding of it and perhaps its resolution and to provide a level of accountability.

It does take some time. It’s not something that can be done in 45 minutes or even a couple of hours, and sometimes the ‘mastermind’ can continue for additional sessions.

It’s a flexible process.

A Mastermind group is not about networking, it’s about mutual mentoring.

Members of the group mentor each other as and when required, so there is no ‘leader’ as such and a group may be established by anyone either on a temporary or permanent basis simply by inviting the people who they think would be appropriate – people who can help them and who they can help through mentoring in this way

A mastermind group is not the same as a coach led mentoring group where the coach sets the agenda and is the focus of the meeting – there are many of these around and people normally have to pay to be in the group, sometimes going through a selection process first. There are many of these so-called mastermind groups around and costs can vary from around £3,000 a year to 20 times that figure or more!

Napoleon Hill is very clear, as are other authors after him, that you or I cannot achieve ultimate success in our chosen field without interacting with an effective and relevant mastermind group and even if we don’t set up or belong to a ‘formal’ group we will still ‘unconsciously’ interact with a group of people in this way.

The level of success we achieve depends on who we associate with, who we listen to and who we help.

Two questions.

Who are your mastermind group right now? Who do you mentor, who mentors you and to whom are you accountable other than yourself?

Who would be in your ‘ideal’ mastermind group? All you have to do is make yourself known to them and ask!