Building a brain trust

brain trustBig companies have boards of directors, which provide governance, a wide range of expertise and access to useful networks. When they work well, board meetings are focused, challenging, supportive and collaborative. (That’s a big ask, and they don’t always work well.)

Creating a board of directors for your book  is a bit over the top, but you need focus, challenge, support and collaboration – as well as access to useful networks – just as much as a city corporation when you’re writing a book.

So consider creating a ‘brain trust’, as Bernadette Jiwa did with her book Hunch. In her acknowledgements she thanks ‘my blog readers and the members of this book’s ‘brain trust’… Thanks for being the catalyst for many of these ideas and for giving me a reason to show up.’

So how do you go about creating a brain trust of your own?

First, it needs planning. Just as with a board of directors, you need a balance of experience, expertise and points of view – not a homogenous group who see things just as you do and will rubber-stamp your ideas rather than offering new ones. Don’t just rely on people volunteering: invite those at the edges of your network who you think will bring something of value, ask for recommendations, approach those you respect in different fields with a point of connection. Bring in visual and verbal thinkers, left- and right-brainers, introverts and extroverts.

Second, create a way of working together: meet in person if you can, but if not, a Facebook group or Slack team can work well.

And finally, be clear what you expect of people: do you want to bounce ideas around with them, use them as a focus group for a particular part of your thinking, or get feedback on chapters as you write them?  Or a combination of all of these? As part of this, be clear what’s in it for them: if it’s a small group you might want to name each person in the acknowledgements and give them a copy of the book, for a larger group giving more ad hoc feedback perhaps a discount code, or offer to reciprocate in some way.

And if your brain trust works well, consider making it part of your business, not just your book: all the benefits of a board of directors without the tedious bits.