members of the Lunar Society meeting when the moon is full

Mastermind Groups

There are many versions of Mastermind Groups, some a lot more effective than others.

Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate who was once one of the richest men in American history, attributed his entire fortune and success to his Mastermind group.

The original Mastermind Group

Its thought that the idea of Mastermind groups started as far back as 1765 when Erasmus Darwin invited prominent industrialists, philosophers and intellectuals to meet over dinner in Birmingham on a regular basis. To make travelling easier they met when the moon was full – and became known as the Lunar Society.

Imagine being present when Josiah Wedgewood was talking to Matthew Bolton, James Watt and James Keir about starting factories, mass production, new manufacturing processes, and developing canals and other new methods of transport to deliver goods and materials. All while Joseph Priestly and Darwin were making the case for social reform, and health and housing improvements.  And they ate prodigious dinners while doing it!

Cheap and cheerful Mastermind Groups

Its become very popular to bring a random group of people together under the guise of Mastermind Groups.  Anyone can pitch up and ask whoever is present to help them solve a problem.  This has many drawbacks. A lot of people turn up looking for opportunities to sell their solutions. There is no real understanding of the problem, the business or the business owner. There is no commitment and no accountability – both essential to successful Mastermind Groups. This can give a bad impression of how Mastermind Groups work.

Choose Members Carefully

Andrew Carnegie gathered together 50 people who were all focused on the success of the steel industry.
Erasmus Darwin chose people who helped each other with their individual projects.

Whichever type the group is, members must see themselves as equals, a true peer group, with nothing to gain other than the aims of the group. They should also be committed to meeting on a regular basis and willing to be held accountable for making progress.

Some groups are run by a paid facilitator who vets members, organises meetings and makes sure everyone participates and gets what they need.

A successful process

A good number of participants for this process is 6-8.
Each member commits to membership of the group for 6 months or 6 meetings.
At each meeting, members present an issue they’d like help with.
Each member in turn asks questions to better understand the issue.
When all questions have been answered, each member in turn puts themselves in the shoes of the person with the issue and makes a suggestion phrased as, “If I were you, this is what I’d do …”
This avoids “telling” people what to do and allows the member with the issue to weigh all the ideas and most likely come up with one of their own.
They tell the group what action they’re going to take and agree to be held accountable for action and report back on results.
Members usually agree to the Chatham House Rule. 

Mastermind Groups work

I’ve run and been involved in about 20 groups over the years and I’m a big believer in the phrase Napoleon Hill uses:
“when people work towards a definite purpose in a spirit of harmony…no two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind”, also known as, the Mastermind.

The people I’ve worked with in Mastermind Groups become trusted, valuable associates who challenge each other to find ways to reach their goals, brainstorm ideas, and support each other with total honesty, respect and compassion. Everyone is much better when working together than when working alone.

If you’d like help setting up a Mastermind Group or figuring out what would work best for you, send me a message and I’ll be happy to help! 


2 replies
  1. Sophie Wadsworth
    Sophie Wadsworth says:

    Thank you, Ann, for your insights on this concept and its origins. A gathering of peers with earnest desire to help and challenge one another, to be more through their collective than they could be as mere individuals, there’s potential for real transformation there!

  2. Ann Hawkins
    Ann Hawkins says:

    Thank you Sophie – it really is a powerful thing to do. When the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts you know you’re into something special!

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