Should circles have any curriculum at all?

Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) and Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) forums do not have curriculum. Meetings are focused on “presentations” that explore problems of urgency that particular month. When he participated in YPO and EO, Circles founder Daniel Hoffman led discussions on questions like “Should I sell my company?” and “How should I handle my dad dying?”

Forums can be very powerful problem-solving sessions.  The topics drift to subjects that make the greatest impact: relationships with partners, teams, shareholders, spouses, children and parents. But what are participants learning? A deeper understanding of themselves? Many say that a forum is a unique place where leaders can explore their emotions safely. I’ve seen arguments suggest that as a result, these leaders improve their all-important emotional intelligence (EQ) and soft-side skills.

Is there another possible dimension? What if the group also tried…

to explore something with focus?
to build skill in a particular area?
to accomplish a goal?

Would this detract from the experience or enhance it?

There are many small groups that primarily exist for a goal. Rewiring the brain requires repetition. It also requires recursion – examining a thing from multiple angles the way a word has multiple definitions in a dictionary. What if we could keep group discussions on a particular theme for many sessions? What if we could apply not just repetition but spaced repetition, so some of these themes would cycle back many months later to stop our forgetting of them?

Our idea is to try to maintain both dimensions through learning “journeys.” A journey would last several meetings, and the theme would cycle back months later. It would consist of several deep, member-led explorations on a topic. Drips of relevant content delivered into the chat stream would catalyze learner thinking. The content could come in many forms, including assessments and reflective questions. A circle would chose from a number of journeys, laid out in a map that connects starting points to ending points.

This will make Circles more relevant and understandable, at least at first. Will the journeys give way to deeper, pressing and personal issues as the forums get their groove? Can we keep up both purposes? This is a major issue for our design.

What is the right amount of content for these journeys? How about a weekly diet of…

  • 1-2 15-minute pieces of content
  • 3-4 light pieces of content or reflective questions
  • A few minutes of reflection and group chat every couple of days?

(Updated January 31, 2016)