Set clear expectations as to goals: Before deciding who you want to include in your group(s), be clear what you want each of those groups to accomplish. It will provide a clearer sales pitch you can use to recruit people to your group. Don’t be afraid to be inspirational; remember, your peers are as ambitious as you are!
Consider Diversity: Similar to building your Advisory Board, it is important to look for diversity in your groups. People from different nationalities, work experiences, and socioeconomic backgrounds can add a richness to your group’s ideas that having too many “like-minded people” may not offer. While it can be exhilarating during group meetings to have a strong flow of ideas and quick agreement on the path forward, it can also be a sign of groupthink. If you notice it happening a lot, ask yourself if there is something your team might be missing.
Find “like incentives”, not “like minds”: Wanting a study group to earn that “A”? Find someone with similar focus on academics. Wanting a group to practice case interviews in order to recruit for management consulting? The academically-oriented person ideal for your study group may not be the right fit here, even if they are like-minded (i.e. they may have a management consulting background). That is because they may be recruiting for tech, and thus won’t have the same incentives as you. Make sure everyone in your group has similar goals, to avoid tension later!
Bias towards asking: People want to be wanted, and you will be shocked at people’s enthusiasm for something if they are asked. See someone perfect for your group, but they are already involved in many other things? Ask, even if for a group that might form later. They might find your group better for their needs and join right away, or may join you later. At the very least, you will build a new relationship, and will practice negotiating/influencing skills that will serve you well as you build your longer-term career.
Be flexible!: While incentives might be aligned, different group members have different priorities from time-to-time. Some might have families they care for, while others might have work/class schedules that interfere with yours. The more flexibility you can show in arranging group events around the schedules of the maximum number of group members, the higher level of engagement you are likely to get. Further, people will remember time sacrifices you made, and will likely reciprocate at some point in the future.
Think outside the box: Depending on the group you are putting together, consider partners of MBA students, non-MBA students, or students from other schools in your area. You never know the talent you will find by looking beyond your class!