Braintrust :: Trust the process
3 min read

Braintrust :: Trust the process

In the last article, I described how we attempt to pull ourselves out of a swamp by our own bootstraps and how the Braintrust is a power tool to resolve bottleneck challenges. But can this really work?

After we finished our last Braintrust many people in the group openly shared the doubts they had before going into the session:

  • Max confessed in his write-up "I subscribed to the Braintrust with doubts and fears..."
  • Yina wrote on her blog similarly "I walked into the session with mild trepidation. ... "

At this point, any doubts are totally justified.

"Trust the process" is a phrase I heard back in 2017 when I joined Seth Godin's altMBA. Details about the course curriculum were scarce and instead, I often heard this sentence. Trust the process. I trusted Seth Godin because of what I read from him online and took a leap.

After four weeks I left truly transformed. Up until this very day I meet weekly with a group of four friends that I met at altMBA. So trust me, that I don't use this phrase lightly when I now say the same for our Braintrust: trust the process!

Still, I want to share openly what this process includes.

A diverse group of strangers-soon-to-be-friends

The Braintrust is a safe place because everyone comes to it with the same posture. We all bring a bottleneck challenge. We are seeking help and willing to provide help to others.

The very fact that everyone is different is a feature, not a constraint. There is no question that diversity leads to better performance. And we witnessed it in our last session.

We came from different cultures (India, USA, Denmark, Italy UK, Germany), professions (designer, medical doctor, startup founder, leadership coach), and family status (young couple, single parent, married with children, married with grandchildren).

I could go on about our differences but even more enthusiastically I could talk for hours about how much value we created for each other by using individual perspectives and strengths and how we applied them to the challenges at hand.

Radical candor and no authority

Maybe even more than at Pixar (where the members are still colleagues) in our Braintrust there is no authority or dependency between the participants. It is a place where everyone can be free of prejudices. A place where everyone can show up just the way they like to be seen.

A key component is the way we are giving feedback with radical candor. In a Braintrust we don't shy away from critical feedback or a divergent opinion. But we provide it in a humble, kind, and generous way, always in the search of objective truth. Yina, who participated in our first Braintrust wrote a full blog article about radical candor and its transformative effects.

At its core, caring personally equates to common human decency: of self-sacrifice and thinking of others, to put their success and needs ahead of your own. It is not about taking, it is about generosity. ... It means to share (humble) opinions directly. In fact, it is a sign of disrespect when kind honesty is not expressed. —Radical Candor: The Importance of Being Honest (yinahuang.com)

Collaborate note-taking space

A one-hour conversation per person puts a limit on the bandwidth of information that can be transmitted in this time. This is helpful for prioritization but it sometimes felt like we still left some value on the table. So I introduced the component of collaborative note-taking during the sessions, which I personally facilitate.

In a shared space each participant has a dedicated page for their challenge. Not only do we collect the running notes from the session there, but we also use it as the place to put ideas that didn't make it into the conversation. Last time, content kept on being added from fellow Braintrusters even days after the event.

You'll discover significant value in the package of notes and you'll remain to have access to it long after your session ends.

Just a beginning

The weekend workshop in itself is a powerful experience. But the first question I got from all of the participants after wrapping up was "How can we continue this momentum?". So I introduced a few bonuses to facilitate deepening the connections after the event. I won't go into the specifics at this point but I'll go to significant lengths to keep the energy growing also after the event.

I was also thankful to read from Max:

I subscribed to the Brain Trust with doubts and fears, I’ve ended up getting unstack on my projects while finding a close circle of trusted people. The value provided by Knowledge Entrepreneurs Braintrust was incommensurable. —Braintrust Pioneers. The Report. (curatella.com)

Here I am going to summarise the Braintrust process and provide details for how to join the next session.