The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

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HBR – P2P and Web 2.0 Leadership Development

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In 1995, two young U.S. Army officers who had been friends at West Point found themselves living down the street from each other at a base near Honolulu.  Nate Allen and Tony Burgess were both in their first stints as company commanders, each responsible for three platoons, or about 120 soldiers.  At the end of the day, after their kids were in bed, the tow would get together on the lanai and talk through the challenges they faced in their new assignments.  Out of those back-porch bull sessions grew a venture called CompanyCommand, an internal Army Web site where junior officers facing professional challenges can seek advice from others who have been in similar situations.  ((Dixon, Nancy M, February 2006.  “Peer to Peer Leadership Development” from “The HBR List – Breakthrough Ideas for 2006.”  Harvard Business Review.  Pg 15, 16.))

Your employees and managers already problem solve through networking on the job.  They go out and query known associates, whether that be other on-site managers or people they have met and can e-mail or call.  But in increasingly global organizations, the expertise and advice that is available through the local network is a very small portion of knowledge the whole organization has.

Ms. Dixon takes this case study and presents us with several great reasons for using peer to peer networks and web 2.0 technologies in our leadership development exercises.

  • “Instead of drawing on the wisdom of anointed experts, CompanyCommand provides young officers with knowledge based on the daily struggles of frontline professionals like themselves.”
  • “Focus on context specific rather than broadly applicable advice.”
  • “Replaces one-way flow of information typical of training programs… with fluid online conversations.”  ((Ibid))

And I would add a couple more reasons:

  • Your conversations are now recordable as knowledge management tools.  While some of the advice is so specific as to never be needed again, many other types of conversations will be resurfaced time and time again.
  • You have the ability to monitor the conversations and interceded when bad advice is being given.  For example, some common sense advice may actually be against company policies.  Other times, a responder may give advice that is counter productive, but s/he may not realize it.

Putting together a peer to peer network facilitated in on-line communities is more than just technology implementation.  The change management work to shift the conversations from extensive, but once adoptions is high, the benefits are even greater.

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2 responses to “HBR – P2P and Web 2.0 Leadership Development”

  1. C.M. Peters Avatar

    I swear you read my mind half the time. A friend and I are starting a young professionals group locally here in Knoxville, TN ( to focus on what this article discusses. As a “younger” professional working amongst “older” professionals it does get difficult to relate to the daily struggles. We’re hoping our young professionals group will help facilitate a forum of discussion both online and in person that may better equip young professionals with the information they need each day.

  2. Dubs Avatar


    Great to know you’re also thinking about this stuff. I think the applications of web 2.0 in HR are a bit bleeding edge, but are sure to take off in the next few years. Once we get caught up on the backlog of workforce, engagement and talent issues we’re facing, surely knowledge is next on the list.

    had tried a discussion board on his site a while back, but without much participation. I think for an HR community he may have been ahead of the times. I’ve thought about starting one as well, maybe it’s time for someone to give it a try again.