Braintrust: peer-advisory groups

(Salim Virani) #1

Braintrust is a way to help ourselves progress quickly with regular learning goals and sanity checks. (It’s not for ideation or pitching.)

Regular peer feedback helps us see the big picture and stay on track. Hearing the results of our own advice helps improve our own thinking. You can think of it like going to a personal trainer, so you develop regular habits, but that the personal trainer is a group of your friends, so more about what you learn together.

How it works

  1. Before meeting each week, we record our learning progress.
    • What did you want to learn?
    • What were your results?
    • How did you interpret them? What did you learn?
    • What do you want to learn next?
    • How will you learn it?
  2. We get in groups of 4 or 5. Each person has 8 minutes.
  3. The first 3 minutes is to present Learning Progress.
  4. The group gives rapid-fire feedback for the remainder of the 8 minutes.

We focus on risks, learning goals & methods and environmental awareness (like competition, tools & contacts.)

A few rules

  • Most importantly, feedback should be focused on learning methods, not the idea itself. Never challenge the idea or the business model. Keep focused on the learning goals, the methods used to do that learning, and the interpretation of the results.
  • Use a timer. This keeps everyone on track, keeps the energy high and the feedback punchy.
  • Never let it go longer than an hour, or it quickly loses it’s value-for-time and people drop out. Ending on schedule engenders respect for everyone’s time.
  • You can drop-in for one Braintrust, but if you want to come again, you must commit for 2 months.
  • One founder per company per Braintrust.
  • If you’re late, you’re at the back of the queue to present. (If time runs over an hour, too late.)

The Setup

Braintrust works will when it’s self-organised, but we’ve run this as a meetup. In either case, there are two important things to ensure:

  1. Everyone gets and gives value. Diversity is good in a braintrust, since you get broader perspectives, but you’ll find it’s better if everyone’s at roughly the same stage in business.
  2. Braintrusts maintain the same people. A big part of the value of peer-advise is that you don’t constantly need to re-explain yourself. Adding new people in creates this disruption and slows down the flow, so it as little as possible.

How Source builds communities