Braintrust :: Made for your bottleneck challenges
2 min read

Braintrust :: Made for your bottleneck challenges

In past emails, I shared my wonderful experience with the Farnam Street workshop and how the Pixar Braintrust is adding so much value to the creative process in the movie industry.

With my excitement for the potential of knowledge entrepreneurs, I kept thinking about these two things.

What if there would be a way to summon a meeting with other bright minds on-demand? What if you could apply the Braintrust lessons to overcome the challenges that matter most in your life?

We all have challenges in our lives that we notice as particularly relevant. Let's call them bottleneck challenges. Challenges that stay with us over a longer time. Challenges that we know are holding us back.

By looking at this very definition, it should be obvious that these bottleneck challenges are hard to overcome all by ourselves.

Can you pull yourself out of a swamp?

There is a famous novel about the nobleman Baron Münchhausen who was telling infamously outrageous stories based on his military career in the 18th century.

In one of his tales, the baron found himself stuck in a swamp on the back of his horse, realizing that every move sunk them deeper down into the mud.

What do you think he did in that challenging situation?

Well, he infamously pulled himself and the horse out of the swamp by his ponytail! He did what resembles the English saying "to pull oneself up by one's bootstraps".

As ridiculous as this looks in a picture, wouldn't you agree that we often intuitively attempt the same thing with the most pressing challenges in our lives?

And while we are trying to somehow pull this off on our own, we are already suffering the consequences.

Bottlenecks and the theory of constraints

While I was working in management consulting we often talked about production theory and specifically about bottlenecks.

In a chain of processes, bottlenecks limit the capacity of the whole chain.

More often than not, we all have acute bottlenecks in our lives that limit the progress we make towards our goals.

This relatively simple insight was elevated to a very successful management technique called the theory of constraints (TOC).

The theory recognizes that every system "is limited from achieving higher performance versus its goal" by a very small number of constraints.

Highly-paid TOC consultants help companies to identify the most pressing constraint. They then help to invest substantial resources towards elevating this limiting constraint.

The success formula of this popular technique is to identify bottleneck challenges and then get everyone on board to help to relieve them.

Doesn't that sound like the perfect application for a Braintrust?

If you don't address bottleneck challenges you're are already suffering their consequences

One popular option to deal with the bottleneck challenge is to do nothing at all. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?

Well, not quite. Keep in mind that not taking an action, is in itself an act of omission that does have consequences going forward. To remember this point I frequently think of this quote:

If you need a machine and don’t buy it, then you will ultimately find that you have paid for it and don’t have it. —Henry Ford (via this excerpt)

If you are not getting active to resolve your bottleneck challenges, you will pay a price for it. This could be in the form of lost income, lost opportunities, or simply ongoing suffering from the feeling of being held back.

Instead, you could consider bringing your bottleneck challenge to a Braintrust workshop. To an environment where a group of people can help each other to overcome bottleneck challenges on a single weekend.

I'll explain how this is done here