Cohort for self-discovery

Coverage by Bhat Dittakavi of Variance.AI on “Cohorts” by Sanjay Upendram at TiE Hyderabad on 27th Nov 2018
TiE Cohorts is a flagship program that has brought TiE charter members of Hyderabad together. Bonding got deeper. Trust is built. Cohort members see themselves as part of a big family. Family naturally brings confidentiality and trust.
Define Cohort?
Unit in Roman army. A support group. Your own personal group. People with diverse backgrounds and no conflicts of interest, where they can discuss business, family and personal matters.
Cohort is not a social group. It is not a party group. Neither a business group. It is not a group of friends either. And definitely not a gossip group. Cohort needs trust and confidentiality. There should be no conflict of interest. No advice. Opening up. No judgment. Learning from each other. Full commitment.
Why is it that cohort members are not friends? What is this leading to? 
To open up. To build a trusting group. We all have those two to three good friends for long time. Why can’t we make them part? They might be judgmental. They are from different levels. TiE is a homogeneous group with diversity of success. Hence friends may not be cohort members.
What we know matters, but who we are matters more.
What could be that one takeaway you can have from a cohort?
Self enhancement. Get experience sharing as needed. Be able to express freely. Improve and learn. These are all good but that one thing is It is a platform for self discovery.
Is giving advice allowed in a cohort?
No. Only experience-sharing.
Why  do we need to be part of cohort ?
Self discovery and awareness.
Self-discovery doesn’t happen in your comfort zone. 
What can I truly get out of a cohort?
Self-discovery. One thing everyone said is that they could answer the question “Am I the best version of what I can be?”
What benefits did you get as cohort member?
-The more I share, the lighter I feel.
-I become more humble. How blessed I am also.
-I have learnt humility.
-I learnt to take value from relationships.
-Power of love.
-Ability to talk about emotions.
Some of the best practices in the world?
Cohorts in family as well.
Self-discovery doesn’t happen in your comfort zone. What will make you comfortable to come out of the comfort zone?
When we know others are not judgmental.
-When we know it is safe to share.
Is cohort all about the darkest secrets of one’s life?
No. It is about positivity. It is about how other members transformed themselves, from life’s vision into complete positivity.
How did Cohort help you?
Murali: I pulled the courage to face one of the incidents that happened as an entrepreneur. I had hard to have conversation about that tough incident.
Harish: Confidential things won’t be repeated or talked about.
The courage to be vulnerable
We always share the good things and bury the not-so-good things under the carpet. These ones become bigger daemons. We can stop being victim of that thought or emotion. We get to know how to deal with it if we share.
How is the concept of cohort started?
The person who started had a colleague who committed suicide. That is how it started wherein one can stay lighter by talking about the ones he hides from other.
Safe Space
Creating the safe space is the most important in cohort. It can be created by the following.
Confidentiality: Very important.
No judgment. Rolling of eyes and little smile are some of the non-verbal ways of judgment. Even subtle hints can be indicative of judgment.
Trust and bonding: Building the trust and establishing the bond are key.
Commitment: Being on time. Being present while being present. Not having any challenges in life means and the person is not opening up. If you start missing out meetings, it is important you fix it. Absenteeism may bring the enthusiasm in others down. People may not share.
Vulnerability
Subconscious mind impacts us more. Right from memory, instinct and survival mechanism  and on. It is very important to work with the subconscious. Being vulnerable is important as we remove the mask we carry. Because we wear different masks to different people, it is more important we remove the mask. Long train journey is where you open up and share with strangers. There you can’t meet the fellow passenger again. Opening up with a known group makes it much more difficult. If you don’t open up, you carry the daemons. This is why we have these cohort tenets of confidentiality and no judgment. This is what we know gurus for. They listen and keep things confidential. Our mind is conditioned to judge people in diverse ways. These constructs of judgment are made from 5000 years of subconscious memory.
Once one opens up himself, he or she may have the feeling that his or her Cohorts are judging them every time they meet the rest in public gatherings. How do you overcome that?
Initially one may feel the same. In the ideal situation, one may no longer care about the judgment once it has been shared and done with it. This is tough. After opening up, there is self-discovery as a follow-up benefit. As one go deeper, he or she learns about the experiences of others.
Why should one open up by paying a hefty cohort membership fee? Why can’t one go and talk to a counselor at a fee?
Cohort is not about getting a solution. This is about self-discovery. Not every challenge needs to be consulted. This is the test bed to open up for yourself though the stories of other cohort members too. Have you heard of “Negative Space”? Ability to hold diametrically opposite thoughts in the same space at the same time. This is called negative space. Ability to gave such views is very important and cohort challenges you to hold that space.
Enablers to go deep
-Confidentiality
-Protocol
-Bonding and commitment
-Willing to go beyond comfort zone.
-No fear of losing face.
Experiencing the unknown
Every topic under the sun can be explored in a cohort. This is not a psychotherapy session.
What does cohort bring to the table?
1) Power of vulnerability
2) Self awareness
3) Connecting with subconscious
4) Nurture with emotions
5) Work with your shadows
6) You are not alone.
7) Introduce you to your authentic self
8) Creates an opportunity to rediscover.
9) Increase ability to respond versus react
Three exceptions for confidentiality
-Take permission before sharing.
-In the court of law where you have to testify.
-Life and death situations
Judging a person does not define who they are. It defines who you are. 
What is the collateral damage of not sharing?
Not sharing doesn’t address what we deeply think about or hold back. The more you share, the more you get freed. What you hold back holds you back. People share negatives about business but not easily the personal emotions. If you don’t share, the trouble starts troubling you. Modeling a behavior and people who open up first tell the fence sitters it is OK to open.
Being vulnerable is like skinny dipping or jumping into the pool naked. Few take the jump right away. Some will eventually follow. Some will be on the periphery of the pool thinking to jump. Your cohort is as deep as your sharing is.
Achieving depth in cohort
Here is the sequence in which it typically happens.
1. Business facts
2. Family facts
3. Deeper business facts
4. Deeper family facts
5. Deeper personal facts.
Benefits to members and families
-Self discovery
-Explore business, family and career
-Learning from a diverse set of people
-Emotional awareness and empathy
-Skill for open resolution and conflict resolution
-Expanding one’s horizon
Teenagers go through challenges related to puberty, peer pressure, parents, career and on.
Best practices
Benefits to families
Spouse Cohorts: Some spouses may not have good sense of achievement. Spouses get to deal with the ability to balance life better. Spouses get into more social programs. Cohort gives to power to some is the spouse members to venture out.
Nextgen Cohort: Your college kid can join a cohort in a place where goes to college. Cohort becomes a great support group for them.
-Learning and leadership programs
-Kids, teenagers and youth programs
-Family bonding retreats
-Global network
Virtual Cohorts
It is happening now on zoom.
Unproductive behaviors that prevent teams from being high performing
-Lack of trust
-Emotional outburst
-Stressed environment
-Not taking accountability
-Suppressed communication
-Insecurity
-Politics
Cohort in businesses
Powerful in trust building. Relationship oriented. Rules will be different from typical cohort groups.
Cohorts in family
Have authentic conversation with family members. Create confidential environment to let your family member share. Ability to make authentic dialogue. Deeper, open. vulnerable and authentic conversations with family.
Do’s of cohort
-Confidentiality
-Commitment
-Love for others
-Protocol
-Trust
-Bonding
-Vulnerability (a weakness within us that we haven’t addressed)
Set of videos on vulnerability by Bernie Brown: Look up on them
If I know my cohort member needs money, can I support?
Don’t. Money is emotion. You got friends whom you lost because money came in between. Typically someone needing money may be already in a systemic problem.
Sympathy: Oh. Poor fellow. You show concern and then you walk away.
Empathy: You stay with him. You be in the shoes. Core of Empathy is. Listening. It is the core of empathy.
Cohort Success Principles
Every two years, it is recommended to do cohort health survey. Have a consultant work with the Cohort. Cohort leaders shall meet regularly.
1.Vision, value and purpose. (Personal)
2 Confidentiality 
3.Effective conflict resolution
4.No judgment and safe place.
5.Commitment
6.Topic exploration
7.Retreat
Over a period of time, Cohorts buddies become friends. Is this the same friendship as outside?
No.
What is the difference?
Cohort buddies are friends at arm’s length. Being regular friends, you may eventually start putting the mask on and hence lose the value of Cohorts. Retreats are not for typical masked friendships but to be those brothers and sisters. When you are in a cohort go deep and be there but don’t do any family gatherings and partying and so on. Keep family gatherings to minimum.
What makes a good cohort?
-Members describe their cohort experience as life changing. This is when you know it.
-Everyone feels unconditionally loved.
-No talking behind.
-Willing to be vulnerable.
-Cohort meetings are often moving, not just practical and helpful.

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