Take a look at some of the most successful companies and their professional development programs. The keywords will be rotation, paid courses and conferences, and performance reviews.

But what if there was a method that merged all these without costing a fortune to implement

Luckily, there is. But you won’t find any big names throwing it around on LinkedIn. You won’t find it in search engines or your keyword research tool. I’m talking about a concept that I call mutual teaching.

What Is Mutual Teaching?

The core philosophy of mutual teaching is that everyone has something to teach, and something to learn.

But before you call it mentorship, consider one thing. In mentorship, there’s a clear hierarchy and a perceived power imbalance between the mentor and the mentee. Although structural hierarchies are necessary in any organisation, they aren’t always helpful for learning or building self-esteem. In fact, many people intimately see them as an impediment – remember how you saw your school teachers!

As it turns out, mutual teaching is the winning strategy for undoing this arrangement without getting rid of the learning itself. The roles of teacher and learner need to be interchangeable. I will teach you something today only to be taught by you tomorrow.

But How Can This Work in a Company Setting?

It’s simpler than it sounds.

Each week, every team member (yourself included!) is paired with two different colleagues. They teach the first colleague something new. With the second colleague, they switch roles and become the learner, receiving instruction on a different topic. This cycle ensures that every week, each employee actively participates in both teaching and learning, fostering a continuous exchange of knowledge and skills within the team.

But does this mean that somebody will have to spend hours devising this cycle of mutual teaching?

Not by any means! The point is for it to function seamlessly, not to add another load of work onto the pile of your never-done lists.

The thing is, the knowledge and skills people pass on to each other don’t have anything to do with your business. Peter can teach Tina how to cook a perfect Carbonara sauce. Tina can teach Tom her grandpa’s hack for sewing a button. And Tom can show you how to write a perfectly engaging copy for a Facebook post.

It doesn’t have to, and usually, it won’t take much of anyone’s time. You can even pair it with team building or things like the “20% time” technique popularised by the likes of Google. At any rate, mutual teaching should be done in company hours. By allocating some time for it specifically, you can prevent any time management issues that it could cause down the road.

Best of all, this method is scalable and easy to implement in just about any business, big or small, local or international, brick-and-mortar or online.

Beyond the Obvious: Benefits of Mutual Teaching

By now, you’ve probably guessed that there’s more to this method than teaching or learning how to properly fold a T-shirt.

In mutual teaching, it’s not about the subject matter – or the person who teaches and their ego. It’s about the shared experience, the exchanged roles, and the fresh spirit it brings into your workplace.

It’s also about getting to know your co-workers better. By learning your colleague’s grandpa’s button-sewing hack, you’ll share a simple, personal moment from their life. Something that usually gets left out of who we are when we are at work.

More humility in the higher ranks is another benefit of mutual teaching. A manager who gets taught something by an employee will get to put themselves in the employee’s shoes. No matter how often we all talk about the culture of openness, acceptance and camaraderie in the workplace, you can’t even begin to enact them before you break this kind of hierarchical boundary.