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How to Set Up a Brain Trust

Every Tuesday morning, I meet at a local coffee shop with two others. For an hour, we sit and dream together. We half-jokingly call our meetings a 'brain trust' because we simply use the time to discuss big ideas and bounce thoughts off one another. When the hour is up, we go on to the rest of our days, our minds refreshed and worked out due to the hour of deep thinking.

Meetings like this are one way you can stay creative. Here's how to set them up:

  • Find at least two other people. Pick some folks you know and admire for their ability to think. Maybe they look at problems from a fresh angle. Maybe they're creative. Maybe they aren't afraid to ask "Why?" Regardless, pinpoint at least two other people that you know you can learn from.
  • Find a third place. Even if you choose to meet with coworkers, get out of the office. Or if you meet with roommates or family, get out of the house. Go to a place meant for conversation, like a coffee shop, restaurant, park or bar. This neutral ground will force you to stay engaged, instead of worrying about someone needing the conference room.
  • Set aside a time. We meet every Tuesday at 8 AM. We all have pretty flexible schedules, so there are rarely any conflicts with this time. But, it could have been 7 PM on Mondays, noon on Fridays, or any other time that we all could commit to. The key to making these meetings happen is the commitment on everyone's part to be there.
  • Come with a question. We take turns each bringing a question to the others. One week someone may ask, "How could we set up a group that brings about community change the best?" Or, "What's Nashville's biggest need?" The conversation may drift from that, but with a central question to get us started, we can all begin with a reference point.
  • Let it happen. Other than the question, we have no set agenda. There's no format, no talking stick, no rules. Allowing the conversation to go where it may means we can each answer the question from our own perspective, bringing our own unique approach. We may end up 180 degrees from where we started, but that's the beauty of the meeting.

We may not end world hunger in just 60 minutes, but at least we can think about it and get the ball rolling. For many of us, opportunities to dream are rare. Actively seeking out opportunities to do just that with others means our big problems get attention, and just might get solved.

Whether you're dreaming about social ills or a way to improve air travel, forming a 'brain trust' with other smart people means that the next big thing could happen during the next regularly scheduled coffee hour.

This is a post in a series of "How To" pieces. You may also be interested in How to Stay Creative, How to Tell Your Story to Generation Y and How to Be Remarkable.

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