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Tools for Tomorrow – Cohorts

You’re likely asking what in the world is a cohort and why is it worthy of an article.  Let’s begin with the definition.  A cohort is defined as, “A group whose members share a significant experience at a certain period of time or have one or more similar characteristics.”  I believe cohorts have significantly more value than mere groupings of like individuals. As such, cohorts are a subject worthy of exploration for three reasons:

  • First, it’s highly likely you’re going to be self employed at many times in your career. Your ability to thrive independently while simultaneously depending upon others is imminent. The necessity to rely upon your cohort for support and understanding is inevitable and when the going gets tough, you have camaraderie with your cohort members.
  • Second, the days of working alongside co-workers in an office are dwindling. Working remotely is very acceptable these days, but it comes with a price. The price is self-discipline, accountability and reliability – all traits common to a healthy cohort.
  • Third, organizations are increasingly flat. Minimal are the hierarchical layers of management which instilled command and control in days gone by. You’re expected to be self-organized as a unit of one or twenty-one. Further, because the boss isn’t necessarily looking over your shoulder, it’s incumbent upon each cohort member to push the others to ever higher levels of performance.

Accountability and Growth

At Apprentice University, we have integrated cohorts into nearly every aspect of student engagement. Cohorts are not group or team projects where one student does all the work and the others bask in the rewards (or losses). Unlike team projects, cohorts are a tight-knit unit, stitched together to hold one another accountable with each member being responsible for his or her own work. Further, cohort members learn from another and feed off one another’s strengths and weaknesses.

High Stakes

Created from the counsel of a half-dozen retired military elite, including a retired Delta Force Colonel, a Thunderbirds pilot, and many more, we modeled our cohorts to operate with a similar, high-stakes mindset. On the surface this might seem a bit extreme, but we know that in order to prepare young adults to thrive in tomorrow’s economy, understanding how to leverage a cohort for everyone’s success is critical.

Let’s use a real-world example of a cohort. During my time as the CEO of Bitwise Solutions, I helped create a program for fellow CEOs of like companies – a cohort. For the past half-dozen years, this group has met semi-annually and grown consistently year after year. Some members are better connected and engaged than others and each represents an independent business. We all know that the sharing of best practices, industry trends, hiring strategies and marketing tips benefit one another yet we remain fiercely competitive with each other in the marketplace.

Stronger Together

We often find ourselves competing for the same business one day and teaming together to win another piece of business the next. Our competitors are our partners and we make one another stronger. Much like the first bullet point above, we thrive on our own yet we know we are dependent, to some degree, upon one another. This fascinating interdependency between firms scattered across North America closely parallels how cohorts comprised of individuals can thrive in tomorrow’s economy.

Read the entire Tools for Tomorrow series!




Empolyability Ron Brumbarger

Ron Brumbarger is one of Indiana’s most recognized technology and education entrepreneurs and visionaries. As a dedicated husband, father, friend, mentor, business owner and volunteer, Ron continually strives to weave his many passions into a unique tapestry to serve others. He has spent his entire professional career leveraging an entrepreneurial mindset to help disruptively change education, apply technology to enhance business practices and facilitate organizational growth. He co-founded BitWise in 1992 and served as the company’s president and CEO until January 2018. He was tapped in 2006 by Indiana’s Governor Daniels and Ball State President Gora to start Indiana’s first, statewide, virtual-charter school. In 2013, he founded Apprentice University ®, an award-winning, competency-based college of higher education, preparing future leaders.Content goes here

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