Learning at work is of major importance to companies the world over, with improving knowledge generation and sharing a major selling point of social business. I'd like to use this post however to talk about social learning in an offline setting as new research from the University of Warwick may have some interesting insight into the topic.
A while ago there was a famous Harvard study into how others influence our feelings of personal wealth. It found that we would generally rather be paid less, if it meant we were paid more than our peers, than paid a higher salary if it meant we were worse off in relation to others.
The Warwick study applied this line of thought to learning. Do we learn better if our peers are smarter or dumber than us? It found that there was a fascinating difference depending on whether you were male or female, with girls benefitting from being surrounded by smart people, but this environment having a detrimental affect on boys.
“A 10 percent increase in the numbers of ‘good’ peers in a group is associated with a 10 percent increase in performance for girls only, compared to the average. Boys actually seem to lose about 5 percent in performance,” says Victor Lavy, professor at the University of Warwick.
The research team don't really provide any conclusions as to why that is. Could it be a genetic consequence that sees males competing to be the best, whereas women are perhaps more co-operative?
With so much of corporate life now undertaken in a group environment however it is an important issue to get to the bottom of.