Could you benefit from Belonging to a Peer-to-Peer Network?

Rita McGrath
4 min readFeb 20, 2024

The old recipes for making a firm a talent factory have eroded. Executive development programs provided formal training specific to organizational levels, and employees were expected to remain with their organizations for long careers. Today, tenures are getting shorter, there are fewer layers and leaders are being thrust into situations for which many feel unprepared. Might a peer network help address the gaps?

The way it used to be…

Executive development, or more specifically executive education, truly got going in the United States and Europe after the second world war. Universities such as Harvard introduced the “Advanced Management Program” and other high-level courses designed to teach practical business leadership skills to executives who might have experience in family firms or in the military but not in the increasingly large global firms that represented an ever-larger portion of the economies of much of the developed world.

In addition to university-based programs, many companies created their own customized curricula often taught on a corporate campus, such as GE’s Crotonville facility. It’s 1956 opening was aimed at the mission of making General Electric the “best managed” company in the world. Indeed, for a while there, being invited to teach at Crotonville was a real feather in the caps of business school professors everywhere. Several generations of GE leaders made the trip to the bucolic resort to personally lead sessions and a well-staffed human resource and training group expertly managed the learning journeys for many a GE manager.

Times have changed. As Wharton’s Peter Cappelli notes, by 2022 the company had decided to sell off its iconic center. At its peak, Crotonville reportedly had a $1 billion budget. And GE wasn’t alone — IBM had multiple corporate training centers which it sold. The closures signaled a big change in attitudes about executive development. As Cappelli says,

“There will be even less planned career advancement, fewer systematic opportunities to develop the abilities of leaders and, more generally, less opportunity for individuals in these jobs to stop and think about what they are doing and how to do it. To the extent that these facilities and the programs they run are about passing…

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Rita McGrath

Columbia Business School Professor. Thinkers50 top 10 & #1 in strategy. Bestselling author of The End of Competitive Advantage & Seeing Around Corners.