The Origin of Mastermind Groups

November 2022

The Origin of Mastermind Groups

Mastermind groups offer spaces for leaders in the nonprofit sector to converse and work with other senior leaders in the field to expand their leadership abilities. Participants gain the expertise and wisdom needed to address the complex challenges associated with philanthropic leadership and learn ways to approach their organization's problems from individuals with similar experiences. Many people have reaped the benefits of mastermind groups, but not as many know about their origins and the way they evolved into the groups we know today.

The mastermind concept is credited to the acclaimed business writer Napoleon Hill, best known for his 1937 magnum opus "Think and Grow Rich." In this book, as well as in his previously published, "The Law of Success in Sixteen Lessons," he introduced the concept of the "Master Mind," which describes the collective knowledge and shared experience of a group of professionals who meet to share their insights on particular issues. In its most basic form, a mastermind group helps to "coordinate...knowledge and effort...between two or more people for the attainment of a definite purpose," typically to solve challenges or evolve as organizational leaders. 

Hill based his idea on the experience of the many businesspeople whom he researched for his books, such as Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford. Hill claimed that one of the keys to these individuals' success was that they met regularly with other well-regarded professionals and drew advice from the collective wisdom of that group. Carnegie, for example, met with a group of around fifty people in the steel industry to learn new ideas and stay one step ahead of his competition.

While Hill's examples largely applied to the business world of the mid-twentieth century, the mastermind idea has since spread to many other sectors. Organizations are varied as the National Speaker's Association and Marketing Mana operate mastermind groups that help connect their members and leverage the experiences of each participant. Many nonprofit consultants and leadership organizations operate masterminds that help philanthropic leaders across the country to pool their wisdom and find novel approaches to the challenges faced by their organizations. 

Thinking about joining a Mastermind group? PMA's Mastermind Program brings together groups of six to eight nonprofit leaders to accelerate their Path to Nonprofit Leadership. Our four-month virtual program (seven two-hour sessions) combines one-on-one coaching and peer mentorship to meet the needs of every individual in each cohort. Click here to learn from several recent graduates what they gained from their Mastermind experiences. The program is offered each "season": Spring, Summer and Fall. Learn more and apply here.


Additional Resources

The Law of Success - Lesson One: The Master Mind by Anthill Online

7 Reasons to Join a Mastermind Group by Forbes

This is Napoleon Hill's most ignored secret to success by Market Watch

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

About PMA Nonprofit Leadership 

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