How to Match Cohort Members into Small Groups - Abhishek Bhargava

Community members of a cohort-based course can benefit a lot from being matched together. That's why I interviewed Abhishek Bhargava to learn how to match members together the right way.

We Covered
  • How Abhishek got started helping CBC creators and other business owners to match people together (01:34)
  • Why connecting with people in a cohort and in a small group within is so important (02:44)
  • The importance of having a social relationship before establishing a business/transactional relationship (05:10)
  • How it works for two strangers in cohort to develop a meaningful relationship (06:06)
  • The overall process of how Abhishek’s algorithm matches cohort members together (11:32)
  • What criteria you need to match members (14:08)
  • What members should talk about together after being matched (16:13)
  • How to collect the matching criteria information from members (17:52)
  • What to do when the member isn’t engaging in their small group (18:16)
  • The ideal small group size (23:00)
  • How to make sure the small group conversations are worthwhile (23:51)
  • Dunbar’s number and why you should have 1-1 matching as well as small group matching (25:55)
  • How to ensure members are happy with their matching (31:44)
  • The importance of keeping members connected after the cohort is finished (34:08)
  • Final questions (38:06)
In a Nutshell
  1. To follow Dunbar’s number, members should ideally be part of a cohort, a small group of four people, and have a 1-1 pairing.
  2. Identify the criteria you want to use for matching, both default (e.g. time zone) and custom (e.g. career).
  3. Collect the matching criteria information from each member through a form and through other means, such as their social media.
  4. Match members together. One thing to consider is if person A is an expert at X and person B wants to learn more about X, they could be a good match.
  5. Send an email to each member stating who they are matched with, why they were matched, a list of suggested talking points, and one of their Calendly links so they can schedule a 30-minute meet & greet to go through the talking points.
  6. After a while, collect feedback to help improve your matching process and see if any members would like to be re-matched with someone else.
  7. Keep members in the community so they can continue to make acquaintances and build bonds over time.
Full Transcript

[00:00:13] Jonathan: Ahoy, captain! Welcome to Cohort Captain, the only super actionable podcast made for cohort-based course creators. I'm your host, Jonathan Woodruff. Once your cohort gets beyond five or 10 or however many cohort members, it gets harder and harder for the members to become intimately familiar with each other and with the progress the others are making. 

That's one reason it can be helpful to split the cohort into small groups or pods or whatever you want to call it, and creating these small groups could be done at random, but maybe you'd like to learn a better way to match these small group members together.

That's why my guest today is Abhishek Bhargava, the co-founder of covalent at, which among other things, it performs automatic cohort member matching. And so he is here right now to uncover the underlying matching process that you can apply to manually match members together in your cohort.

What's up, Abhishek?

[00:01:26] Abhishek: Great to be here.

[00:01:28] Jonathan: Hey, so good to have you here and very thankful for your time. It's late on a Friday.

[00:01:33] Abhishek: No worries.

[00:01:34] Jonathan: So, brownie points to you for doing this, late in the week, close to the holidays, late in the day. Really appreciate it. So, I'm very interested in getting to know how you got interested in helping CBC creators, specifically to match their members together.
How did that all kind of come together?

[00:01:52] Abhishek: I mean, I think a lot of my interest in kind of community and cohort-based courses comes from COVID. So I think pre COVID, it was really easy for people to feel that sense of belonging and connection, especially when things were in-person. And kind of in a post COVID world when we're remote and hybrid, it's really hard to foster that sense of connection and belonging within the communities or cohort-based courses that you're in.

And, you know, a big part of cohort-based courses are the community that comes along with it, and that's one of the reasons that it's really valuable for people. And so if people are spending a lot of time in their online communities and cohort-based courses, I think one of the highest leverage ways to actually make an impact and improve quality of life is to help them feel that sense of belonging that they used to feel when they were in person. So we're trying to bring that feeling back.

[00:02:44] Jonathan: Yeah, I love that idea of bringing what we would do in person, to online. I was talking about this with someone else recently, actually that, you know, it's not every cohort-based course is the same, and you know, you could have one cohort-based course that kind of feels cold almost.

It's like you have the course and the community is there, but you know, it's almost like you're all taking the course at the same time, but not necessarily together, if that makes sense. Whereas like, it could be the other way around where you actually have like a really tight knit, almost family, really strong bond with the other community members that play an integral part in not only your experience, but in your ability to get the result of the course.

So let's dig into that a little more. I have kind of a two-part question for you, which is why is connecting with the other people in a cohort so important and then part B to that is why is connecting with a small group of people within a cohort so important?

[00:03:46] Abhishek: Yeah. So I hate to get all philosophical on you here, but in terms of the first part, why is connecting important in general? The way I like to think about this and I'll speak for myself is one of my kind of long-term goals are meaningful work and meaningful relationships. And to kind of build those meaningful relationships, it's really important to connect with people who you can relate to on some sort of surface level, but also have some sort of foundational value alignment with, and, you know, we can talk about that later, but, I think that's why connecting is really important, and it probably improves the experience as a whole in a cohort-based course, because the whole reason why you're not just doing an online course and why you're doing a cohort-based course is because you want to interact with the people within the cohort.

And then in terms of, why connect within small groups or one-to-one, I think that's kind of the best way to actually get to know someone. One of the things that, you know, we really like to emphasize at Covalent is how do you create these social first and professional second relationships? Because I think when you create those types of relationships, that kind of fosters trust collaboration and things like that.

And so, small groups and one-to-ones, so there's a bunch of research that shows that those mediums are kind of the best way to create those kinds of relationships. It's much harder in like large groups and events and settings like that.

[00:05:10] Jonathan: And you mentioned social first before business first, right? Those are the two terms. So what does that actually mean, like to have a social relationship before you have a business relationship, what does that look like?

[00:05:22] Abhishek: So I think what is interesting here is that when I'm friends with somebody and then I work with them, it's really easy to collaborate and talk to each other. I think the challenge with professional first relationships is it's hard to break down certain barriers that people have when interacting in a professional setting.

And so if you can get people to know each other outside of a work setting, then that's really powerful because then they can connect on a more social level, which makes them open up more than they would in a professional setting. And you know, that openness is kind of what fosters number one, a more meaningful relationship, but number two more trust and more collaboration in a professional setting as well

[00:06:06] Jonathan: So we have kind of this social relationship that's really important to build, and it's not just like this kind of cold, transactional thing. There's actually some meaning to this relationship. So, how can two cohort members begin to, and these are strangers. So these are two cohort members that have never met each other.

How can these two strangers in a cohort or a small group, either way, how can they, how does it work to actually develop a meaningful relationship?

[00:06:40] Abhishek: Yeah, that's a great question. And, you know, that's something that we think about a lot at Covalent because it's our entire business, and so I think one of the key things is foundational value alignment. Foundational values are essentially values that you hold and rarely change and are kind of fundamental to who you are.

And so the foundational value alignment piece is very important. And, generally by virtue of being in the same cohort-based course, you generally have some sort of foundational value alignment. And so by connecting people within an organization or cohort-based course, we kind of use that as a heuristic for alignment and foundational values.

And I think the second piece that is interesting is, kind of more of a surface level bonding is also important. So if you get on a 30 minute call with somebody and you have absolutely nothing to talk about, you're probably not going to be able to develop a meaningful relationship with that person, no matter how deep your foundational value alignment goes.

And so, this is one of the key things that we facilitate at Covalent, which is how do you actually connect people who are relevant to each other. maybe in a more surface level way, to where they can have a 30 minute conversation about topics that they're both interested in and both passionate about.

[00:07:55] Jonathan: Interesting. Okay. and then once they have like a 30 minute conversation with someone, how does the relationship progress from there? Do we just get them into small groups and go through the cohort or is there more magic that needs to be facilitated there to actually, really create that bond?

[00:08:11] Abhishek: Yeah, I think kind of the one and done meetings aren't really that useful in helping people develop a meaningful relationship. I think having recurring meetings. So for example, you and I meeting once a week for the next three months, I think that's a really powerful way to develop that relationship. And especially in the context of cohort-based courses, we run accountability partner programs a lot.

And, an accountability partner is basically someone who stays with you throughout the course. And you meet either every week or every two weeks, whatever cadence feels right to both of you. And they kind of see you on your whole journey throughout the course. And you also meet with them multiple times.

So we've seen a lot of really deep bonds forming through accountability partner programs, for example, especially when the matches are curated and the people are actually relevant to each other.

[00:09:03] Jonathan: Yeah, it seems like if they can have a long conversation with each other and they have the same value and the same goal that they're trying to accomplish in the CBC, which like you said, should be a natural thing, that bond will really be strengthened through just the course of the program too.

Like when you have those recurring meetings, like you were saying, like if they have recurring meetings, then they're kind of helping each other through their struggles, throughout, and I think that would be pretty bonding to actually be vulnerable and share challenges and not have to feel like they have to be perfect in front of that person.

You know, I feel like, it could be kind of scary to be vulnerable in front of a whole group of people if there's like, you know, 50 people in the cohort to really open up. But if you have this like small group, I can just imagine, I mean, I don't know, that it would be a lot, a little bit easier anyway to open up and truly be vulnerable and share, you know, struggles and failures and everything, which I think is what bonds us as humans when I think about it. Like if I'm bonding with another person, it's not because I'm telling them how great I am and I'm like bragging and stuff. It's because I'm sharing like, you know, just the very human aspects of me, and never is it perfect. 

And it's not all about the awesome things I'm doing. It's, you know, there's a lot of things that make us out as humans that, I think just comes out when we're having these very real conversations in an intimate setting with, you know, just one other person or a few other people.

[00:10:37] Abhishek: I totally agree with that. And, finding people like that is a hard thing. It's like really hard to find people who you can be vulnerable with, and you know, everything we're doing today kind of serves as a proxy to help find those people. And it's not a hundred percent, right? There's no way we can guarantee that in a hundred percent of our matches, you're going to find someone who you can be vulnerable with, you can get along really well with, you can develop a meaningful relationship with.

But what we try to do is make that hit rate really high. So, hopefully in at least like 60%, 70% of the matches that you experience through Covalent, or, you know, a cohort-based based course instructor can make manually, hopefully in 60 to 70% of those cases, you can actually find somebody who you're talking to two years down the road, because you feel like you can be vulnerable and comfortable with them.

[00:11:32] Jonathan: Yeah, I love that. And then in a sense, it's like a true friendship. So, speaking of Covalent, what is your… cuz I really want to break down how CBC creators can almost kind of take the automatic process and obviously not your, you know, private, like everything, like all the things that you do in your automatic process, but like basically take the essence of what you guys do, to manually do the matching.

So what's kind of, like how does Covalent go about matching people together? What's the overall process?

[00:12:04] Abhishek: Yeah, that's a great question. So our traditional process is essentially the cohort-based course, you know, community manager or instructor, whoever it is, will come to us and tell us what “relevant” means for that organization. And that can be a bunch of different things, right? For some cohort-based courses that are focused on YouTube content, it might be number of subscribers on YouTube. For others, “relevant” might mean favorite food or favorite movie genre, whatever. Right? 

So they would come to us and tell us what data they want to match people based on. And then if they have that data, we can use that to match people. If they don't have that data, then we have a process around collecting it. So, the essence of it is we have people fill out a form to opt into matching, and this opt-in piece is really important, and we can talk about that later, but, there's this form that people will fill out to opt in, and we would collect any additional information that we need through that form. And then we have our own matching algorithms that say, “Hey, both of you like tennis and you're into web 3 or YouTube.” 

We would match people based on that. And then essentially send out introduction emails where we kind of tell each of those people who each other are. So for example, if you and I were being introduced, it would be like, “Jonathan meet Abhishek.” And, it would link to my LinkedIn and maybe give my title at my company and vice versa. Right? 

And then the second piece is it would tell us why we're relevant to each other. So this is kind of like personalized talking points, which is, kind of like our secret sauce, which we can actually tell you what you should talk to the other person about and what both of you are interested in and why, what you have in common and why you're relevant to each other.

And that tends to be really powerful because now you're not going into a 30 minute conversation, completely blind. You actually know something about the other person and you know what you can talk about.

[00:14:08] Jonathan: Beautiful. So if I am a cohort-based course creator, and I'm going to do this matching process, I have, let's say 20 people in my cohort, and I want to put them into, I want to pair them together, let's say. And so the first step there is to figure out what criteria matters for the matching. And that sounds like it's a pretty customized thing.

Like you were saying, like, if it's you know, B2B, like everyone is a B2B consultant. And, it’s probably a pretty business-related like, what industry are you in? And things like that. Whereas if it's, you know, I don't know, how to learn how to fish, and it doesn't matter what industry you're in, maybe it's going to matter, like what type of soda you like to drink or something like that… things that you can talk about. 

It's kind of customized, but are there any, when you have this form for people to fill out, for the members to fill out, there's some customized questions, but are there any like default questions that you like to ask or any like fixed set of information that you like to collect to match them together?

[00:15:18] Abhishek: So one of the big ones is time zone. We work with a lot of organizations that are remote and have members in multiple different countries and time zones. And so if you can match people who are in the same or similar time zone, that's really powerful because they're much more likely to meet. So, I would say that's one thing. We like to collect some sort of social profile URL. It could be LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, whatever it is, just so that you can like kind of stalk the other person and have some sort of background on them. I think those are two big ones. 

And the third piece is to kind of reduce the friction and actually scheduling the meeting. We'd like to either handle scheduling ourselves, or we ask for Calendly links or other scheduling links that we can include in the introduction email. So, you know, it can be like Jonathan, you can book some time with Abhishek here, and that would link to my Calendly.

[00:16:13] Jonathan: And so when you send out these intro emails, you introduce who they are, why they seem to be a good match, and then talking points. So you, you have a link for like, for them to actually schedule a meeting and meet for a half hour session and see if they vibe. And so, what's an example of a good talking point without giving away your secret sauce of, of like how you go about, you know, putting together these talking points, but in general, like what are these conversations… what's taking place during these conversations? What are they typically talking about at a high level?

[00:16:51] Abhishek: So, the way we like to think of it is every organization has its own culture, its own things that are relevant to the organization. And so the talking points depend on what the matching criteria are. So if we're matching people based on, you know, favorite soda, then we can say, both of you are into this soda. It'd be really cool for you to go fishing together and maybe bring along a six pack of Fanta or whatever it is. Right? 

Or for example, if it's something like gives and gets… so one of the things that we like to do with organizations we work with is ask what can you help with and what do you need help with?

And then we can match people who need help with X with people who can help with X and vice versa. And so using that as a talking point is also really powerful because it's something that provides clear value and it's like a direct talking point. It's like, Hey, you both, you need help with fundraising, you can help with fundraising, you guys should talk about fundraising. Right?

[00:17:52] Jonathan: And so you're getting this data from the forms that they're filling out. Is there anywhere else that you get this data from, or is it just the form?

[00:18:01] Abhishek: Yeah. So today it's just the form, but we're actually looking at getting some of this data from LinkedIn as well. And we can also use any information that the organization or cohort-based course has already collected. And we can kind of augment our data with that.

[00:18:16] Jonathan: Cool. So yeah, it is. It seems like it would be possible to get data from elsewhere. And I think I was talking with Jay Clouse in episode 10, we went just a little bit into matching actually. And, he was saying that's if I remember right that when they do the welcome session and they have some activities that they do in the beginning before the cohort really gets going, they'll just kind of take those opportunities, the things that they're learning from the members to, you know, just kind of write things down that could be interesting for matching and then actually use that to match as well.

So, I mean, overall, it sounds like you have a form and maybe you're collecting data from elsewhere, but at least you have the form and then you get the information after they fill it out and then you're matching them together just based on criteria that's the most interesting, the most relevant. And, like you said, if someone can help the other person and vice versa, then that's a great way for them to get talking and really build that bond. 

So, okay. So we've already, we're already starting to match members together, which is, pretty exciting and ultimately what we wanted to get to, but I don't think that's necessarily where the story ends because now we've introduced them, they've met with each other, but they're not necessarily going to bond with each other or they're not necessarily going to actually show up to that meeting. So what do we do in that situation? When the cohort member just isn't really engaging in their small group?

[00:19:55] Abhishek: So I think there are a couple of key things that we think about here. The first is we always make sure we do opt-in because when you do opt-in, it makes sure that everyone who opts in is actually somewhat engaged. So it's much less likely that they'll flake on the person they were matched with.

The second piece here is that we really try to collect a lot of feedback on the meeting and the match. And if it's not a good fit, or if the person didn't show up, we run basically a rematching round where everyone who couldn't meet with their partner or wants a new partner, they would fill out some other form and we would rematch all those people amongst themselves to ideally give them a better partner who is more likely to respond.

[00:20:43] Jonathan: And is that the same form that you sent previously, the first iteration? Or do you modify it?

[00:20:48] Abhishek: We already have their information because they've already opted in. So we just need to get a sense of like, did they enjoy the meeting with their partner or not? Did their partner show up or not? And once we get a sense of that, we can figure out whether we need to rematch them.

[00:21:04] Jonathan: Okay. Yeah. So like I thought two members would bond over their love of root beer and it didn't happen, and you know, one person thought that they could benefit from, you know, being in another group. Like, I mean, what kind of like… you have the old information that you've already collected from them, but how do you know what new information to collect from there, I guess like… are you just asking them, like, I guess in my mind, what I would probably naturally do is ask them. “Okay. Why didn't you like that small group.” And then, what, “if you could wave a magic wand, how would it look different?” And then like, if someone else is saying the same thing and there would be an automatic, like definitely they can be a match.

So in my mind it could almost be like a very… cuz in my mind, like, honestly, like if that first round of matching… like what percentage of people would you say would actually stay in the group that you assigned?

[00:22:06] Abhishek: Almost everybody. Yeah. this, this almost never happens.

[00:22:09] Jonathan: Okay. Awesome. So like this rematching process could be like very manual.
Even if you have like a large cohort of like a hundred people, like it's probably going to be, you could probably just manually just figure out like where to put, you know, the one or two strays who, don't want to stay in their small group.

[00:22:25] Abhishek: Yeah, exactly. And our, Covalent is designed to work with CBCs of any size. So even if it's like 10,000 people and let's say like 90% of them or 99% of them like the small group that they're in and their partner shows up and everything, maybe there's like 10 to a hundred people who don't, we still automate that process because, you know, it's hard to do at scale.

But yeah, if you have like a hundred people and you make good matches the first time around, it's unlikely that it would be hard to do It manually for the rematching.

[00:23:00] Jonathan: What's the ideal size for a small group? Are we looking at groups of two groups of 10? Like…

[00:23:06] Abhishek: Yeah. So we've seen a bunch of research on this and we've kind of seen this empirically through our own product as well. The size that tends to work best is four to six, and that kind of depends on the vibe that you're going for. Four is usually good for more intimate settings. In general, for any given meeting, you can expect like one out of four people to maybe not show up.

And so you still have three people in that case, which is still good. You can get intimate in that setting. And then, six people is more like, maybe it's a study group or something like that. It's less about developing that meaningful relationship. It's more about just bringing together people who are similar or relevant to each other in some way.

[00:23:51] Jonathan: Okay. And so four to six is like the ideal size. And so that's a decent circle of people. You know, in my mind, if it's a one-to-one relationship, it would be, I dunno, maybe it's just because of me and my personality. I tend to connect better one-on-one, in one-on-one settings. But like for me, I'd probably have an easier time knowing how to connect to that one other person, because I'd probably just, you know, each week that we met, I'd probably just, you know, ask them how they're doing on their assignments and how things are going. And just kind of, you know, have a really casual conversation. 

With a group of four or six, I mean, I guess you could do the same thing, but I mean, are there any kind of ways to help that group, connect in a particular way so that it's not just, I mean, is it better to have it totally freeform where they're just kind of left on their own to kind of figure out how to navigate their relationship with the members in their small group? Or are there certain ways that you kind of help to facilitate that, to kind of keep that bond growing for them and keep them, make it really helpful for them in the cohort to really help each other through it.

[00:25:07] Abhishek: I think one-on-one connections generally work better. We at least recommend having one-on-one connections and that small groups are usually a good supplement to that, but I would say there's a trade off between making the interaction feel natural and making it more of a guided hand-holding kind of thing.

And so I think it's really important to make the interaction feel natural. And when people are in small groups, there's, you know, the conversation usually goes in some direction kind of naturally, which is really important. So it would almost be worse to try to hand-hold them through how they should talk to that small group and better to kind of leave them to their own defenses and just try to communicate and figure out what's valuable for them within the small group.

[00:25:55] Jonathan: That's interesting. So you could have a one-on-one relationship, small group relationship, and the greater cohort relationship as well. And each one kind of plays a different role, right? Like, so for the cohort, you might turn in an assignment and everyone can give you feedback on that assignment.

And then in your small group, you can have, it's a little more freeform. You can have discussions to help each other and support each other and learn from each other. I know that's a big part of group coaching programs in general, when you're on a call with a group and like the coach is helping someone else, you can still like learn from what the other person's going through and like how they're getting through it.

And then you have those one-on-one for like, the most, like the deepest conversations that you can have. So that makes a lot of sense. I didn't, I never thought about it that way. I always thought of the whole cohort and then a small group, but I never thought of having cohort, small group, one-on-one relationship.

So when you match, are you matching them in two ways into both a small group and into like, and just one other person to have that one-on-one connection as well?

[00:27:02] Abhishek: Yeah. So it depends on what the organization wants. We generally do at least accountability partners for cohort-based courses because having one person who will be there for the journey the whole time is really powerful. 

Small groups are generally good for less of a recurring meeting type of setup, more of like, and it could be recurring, but, often we see them done in kind of a one and done way where you meet with a small group of people, you get to know them on a more surface level, and then you meet with a new group of people in two weeks or in one week or whatever the cadence is. 

And another thing I'll point out is there's like a really interesting parallel here between what we're talking about with one-to-one connection, small group connection, and then the entire cohort as a whole. If you're familiar with Dunbar's number, it basically says that, you know, we can at any given point, we can be loose acquaintances or friends with 150 people at most, and that's known as Dunbar's number. 

And then within Dunbar's number, there's kind of these three different tiers. One is like really, really good friends, people who you're the closest with and you can be completely vulnerable with. And generally that circle is around five people. Then there's another kind of subset of that, which the next tier is like 50 people who you would consider good friends, you talk to fairly frequently. And the last tier is like the whole tier of 150 people who you consider friends, but maybe you're not in touch with every month. Maybe it's like every six months, every year, whatever it may be. 

But, I think there's a really interesting parallel between that kind of way of looking at things and how things could and potentially should work in within cohort-based courses?

[00:28:49] Jonathan: That's super interesting. And yeah, it seems like, it's pulling from what would that be? Sociology. Where did you learn Dunbar’s number?

[00:28:56] Abhishek: Uh, I think it was from a podcast. Yeah, and then I got really interested in that, and then I read a couple of articles about it. So.

[00:29:04] Jonathan: That's cool. yeah. And it makes sense. I mean, if I were to count the number of people that I know, I don't know if I could count to 150, but at least, you know, it's interesting to know that the brain can kind of keep track of that much. And then, yeah, I mean, just, you can't, you can't be close to that many people.

Like, there's just not enough hours in the day. And like, yeah, we have to care about ourselves too. So we gotta, we gotta, it's just not possible. So, yeah, that makes sense that, that's what the small group and the one-on-one would really help to serve as is for that close… to actually facilitate that close connection that you need.

[00:29:44] Abhishek: Yeah. And I mean, I mean, I'd even kick it back to you. How do you feel about those tiers? Cuz I have my own pretty strong opinions on this, but, how do you feel about those tiers? Like five super close friends, 50 let's call it good friends. And I'm making air quotes because what does that really mean? Right? And then 150 kind of like loose acquaintances or people you would call friends?

[00:30:07] Jonathan: So I would say, so the closest person to me is my wife. So that’s like number one. And then, yeah, I mean, there's only in my circle of people that I actually like talk on the phone with, it's probably approximately five actually. It’s you know, Mom, Dad, sisters, and, you know, it's, I don't know, maybe like another person too, but, yeah.

And then other than that, it's like, lately, I mean, for me, it's been meeting people like you and like other creators and like making friendships like this on the level that we have, you know, that you and I are talking and, you know, before this, we were laughing together and sharing stuff, and I know what you're doing after this meeting. And, uh, I'm sorry.

But, you know, it's, I don't think you and I, I mean, I dunno maybe, but like, I don't know. I don't think you and I are necessarily gonna start calling each other every Saturday.

[00:31:04] Abhishek: Never know, man. I got your phone number, so…

[00:31:06] Jonathan: (laughs) I mean, yeah, you never know you're right. But like, even then I couldn't, I certainly couldn't do that with every single person that I have on my podcast. You know, I just don't have enough time in my day. So I think it honestly does add up like one most intimate, like approximately five people that I like really talk to you on a normal basis and keep tabs on them and they keep tabs on my life.

And then after that, yeah, it goes up to like 50 and beyond.

[00:31:35] Abhishek: Nice. Yeah, that's cool. It sounds like your kind of tiers are very much in alignment with the Dunbar kind of call it a methodology.

[00:31:44] Jonathan: Yeah. So that's a really powerful way then to be in a cohort and to have that experience to not just feel like everybody's in that group of 150, and you're all on your own lone wolf style of going through this cohort, but to actually tap into that, like reality of like, you can have five close relationships and that can really elevate your experience in the cohort and the results you're able to get and to be able to, yeah, really honestly keep tabs with the other people and really understand what's going on with them and the struggles they're going through.

And for them to do the same with you, which is super powerful, like to have someone understand you and your situation, and to actually care, that's a big deal, right? To actually feel like you're understood and cared for. and that can be, yeah, just be super powerful. 

So, how do you actually keep tabs? So once people are kind of, you know, matched together and we're going through the cohort, how do you actually keep tabs on how they're doing? And if they're continuing to enjoy your small group, if they want to change, if they want to, you know, how do you actually, monitor them?

[00:32:53] Abhishek: Yeah, we're pretty diligent about collecting feedback. So, you know, in the initial about one to two weeks after we make the initial introduction, we'll send out feedback emails, to emails, slack messages, whatever platform it is and have people fill out a form that asks them a bunch of questions, and it collects information that's really important to the CBC as well, like NPS, how valuable the matching was. If they actually met, we have them rate how well the match, how good the match was for them, how relevant it was. And we collect a bunch of other information: testimonials, how we can improve, and things like that.

And so we collect all this information. We use that to make our product better, number one, but also see how people are doing and whether we need to make changes and help, you know, specific people out.

And one of the ways we do that is through offering this kind of like rematching round, where if things aren't going well or their accountability partner just isn't responding, then we can match them up with new people, and we can do those check-ins, like whenever. So it can be every two weeks where we do those check-ins make sure everything's going well.

And if something isn't going well, we have people fill out a form and let us know so that the cohort-based course creator can kind of handle that.

[00:34:08] Jonathan: Yeah, that makes sense. And then it's pretty much squared away from there, right? Like once everyone's happy and you know, in the place they want to be, I mean, is that, is that pretty much the end of story or is there anything else that you're kind of responsible for as a CBC creator to make sure everything's, they’re all good?

[00:34:26] Abhishek: Yeah, I think one thing that I've seen a lot of CBC creators do that maybe isn't as great is they'll kind of have people, they'll try really hard to keep people super engaged while they're in the course. but if people really enjoy the course and they're really passionate about it, they enjoy the material, the CBC creators should actually create a community of alumni, which a lot of people don't. 

I think it's really important to focus a lot of attention on that community as well, and kind of create engagement and figure out how you can keep that community engaged because you know, cohort-based courses generally are thought of as like, I do this thing for two to three months, and then I'm done, right? I've learned everything and I'm done.

But in reality, education is kind of like a lifelong process and people always want to be learning. And so I think CBC creators can actually add a lot of value by putting people in a community, especially alumni of the courses. Put them in a community, make sure they stay engaged, create valuable content for that community, and I think that's like a really powerful thing and kind of like low hanging fruit that a lot of people don't really think about.

[00:35:39] Jonathan: Yeah, that's interesting. Cuz I guess you already went to all the trouble of matching these people together, and they are creating real bonds together and friendships and yeah, just creating a space for them to continue that, almost an excuse to keep tabs on each other, you know, every now and then.

[00:35:55] Abhishek: And you can, like, you can take this as far as you want. You can have people connect on a monthly basis within that community. Right. Like, we work with a bunch of communities where we connect people on a monthly or bi-monthly every two weeks basis. And something like that would also be super valuable for CBC creators, and kind of the way that I think about this is it's really important to have strong ties and weak ties.

Strong ties are kind of like those top five people in your Dunbar tier, who you're really close with, you can be vulnerable with. And there's like a spectrum, right? It goes from weak ties to strong ties. And there generally are fewer people on the strong ties side. 

People generally have a lot of weak ties, which are like looser acquaintances. So it's like closer to that 150 Dunbar number. And I think it's really valuable to create those strong ties because those are the people who will be there for you when you need something like, it, you know, those are the people who make you happy. 

And then the kind of weak ties are really important to have for more like career and professional development because those are the people who can, you know, intro you to a company that you might want to work at or things like that, just because that network is so much larger. 

And so like creating something where, or by facilitating something where people can connect with others who are relevant to them, on a monthly basis, even if it's not recurring, you create a lot of these like weak tie connections, which are actually super valuable in some ways.

And so the way I would think about this is the accountability partner and maybe some of the people in those recurring small groups might come closer to the strong ties of the spectrum, and then people who you meet like monthly, like maybe once, and don't really talk to again for the next six months to a year, they're closer to the weak tie the spectrum. And, you know, they can be super helpful in other ways. 

So I think it's really important to have the right balance and the right ratio there, which is one of the reasons why I think different types of matching could be helpful for communities/cohort-based courses, because creating those different types of connections is also really valuable.

[00:38:06] Jonathan: Yeah, no, that makes so much sense. And, yeah, I never thought about it that way. So, that's really cool. So, Abhishek, I think we've pretty much covered it all, unless there's anything major that, you think, uh, we missed.

[00:38:18] Abhishek: Nope, nothing major. I'll just say one last thing. I'm reading this book called the Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. It's a really good book. I’ve got a book club around it if you want to join, Jonathan. 

But, I think one of the things that Priya Parker talks about a lot is you should be really clear on the reason for bringing people together because everything that you do relating to connections, events, gatherings, whatever… All of it kind of stems from that true reason why you're bringing people together.

And if you think really intentionally about that, then you can create a much better experience for the attendees, the members of your cohort-based course, members of your community, employees in your organization. Right. And so I think it's really important to be intentional about that. Figure out how exactly you want to connect people and why, and then kind of go from there.

Because you know, that kind of thinking is what answers whether it should be a one-on-one connection, should it be a small group connection? Should they meet weekly? Should they meet monthly? Should they, you know, meet once and never meet again? So, yeah, that's what I'll leave you with.

[00:39:26] Jonathan: Love it, man. Well, thank you so so much. And where can listeners keep in touch with you?

[00:39:30] Abhishek: You can hit me up on Twitter @abhargava20. So that's A B H A R G A V A 20. And yeah, you can also email me at So I'll respond to emails.

[00:39:49] Jonathan: Awesome. And I will include all of that in the show notes as well for you folks, if you want to go click on those. So again, man, thank you so much. It's been fun.

[00:39:58] Abhishek: Yeah, thank you so much for having me Jonathan. Fun conversation.

[00:40:01] Jonathan: Appreciate ya. Alright, cheers.

[00:40:07] Jonathan: Thanks for listening. If you'd like to listen to more episodes, hop aboard If you'd like to be my matey, I would love for you to message me on LinkedIn or Twitter. And remember, always captain your cohort, always be my matey, and never lick an iceberg while your ship is passing by.

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