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THE BRAIN TRUSTHow to use your community to help you solve your
biggest challenges. 

Designed and run by Assemble
1
Starting something is hard.
For most of us, it feels a lot like this…
2
But what if…
You could get it to feel like this?
3
Hi, we’re Assemble!
We help organizations become unreasonably effective at working together. We’re
a team of coaches, faci...
THE BRAIN TRUST
A process to bring together the perfect people to move
your vision forward.
5
The idea for a Brain Trust is
simple: use your community to
solve your biggest challenges.
Most of us don’t think we know ...
Here’s why it works.
The Brain Trust is a microcosm of almost everything a leader does to get their
vision off the ground:...
How to Run a Brain Trust
Step 1: Choose Your Challenge
Step 2: Pick Your People
Step 3: Tell Your Story
Step 4: Get Them T...
STEP ONE:
Choose Your Challenge
What will you take on?
9
The challenge is the reason you
are convening a Brain Trust.
A great challenge presents a clear choice and contrasts what ...
THE
CROSSROADS
Do we go left or right?
11
THE
MOUNTAIN
How do we get to the top?
12
THE
PUZZLE
Can we solve it?
13
Now that you know the challenge,
you can identify who can help you
solve it.
14
STEP TWO:
Pick Your People
Who should you invite?
15
The “who” of the Brain Trust is
where the magic happens.
And not just for what they bring to the table. The people you inv...
THE
CONNECTOR
The connector knows lots of people—
preferably lots of your potential
customers. They are also well-
respect...
THE
CUSTOMER
The customer is someone who has
already or might one day buy your
product or service.
18
THE
MENTOR
The mentor is someone in your field
who you go to for advice and wisdom.
They have historical knowledge about
y...
THE
PARTNER
The partner is someone you work
with or could work with, like a
supplier, a freelancer, or distributor.
They s...
A few more tips on the list…
✓ Lead with your needs. Ask yourself: What do I need to make this venture a success? Then,
Wh...
STEP THREE:
Tell Your Story
How do you get them to care?
22
“It all started when…”
Your first job with the people you bring into your Brain Trust is to get them to care.
The best way...
THE
AUDIENCE
All great storytelling begins with
understanding who you’re talking to
and what is going to speak directly to...
THE
ORIGIN
Take us back to the moment you
realized the vision for what you are
doing or made the decision to pursue
it. Yo...
THE
CHALLENGE
The challenge lays out the reason
you’ve decided to host a Brain Trust.
In one sentence, state your challeng...
THE
CONTEXT
The context gives your audience the
information they will need to work
together on this challenge. What have
y...
THE
STAKES
What’s at stake here? If you can get
this right, what amazing thing will you
be able to do that you couldn’t do...
Tips on telling a great story.
✓ Start in the middle of things. Throw us into the middle of a scene and describe
it to us....
STEP FOUR:
Get Them Together
What do you actually do?
30
It’s showtime.
You know what to work on, who to bring in, and how to get them to care. Now it’s
time to engage those peopl...
A Timeline of Communication
This is a timeline for what you should communicate when to the people in your Brain Trust.
Inv...
The Night of the Event
Here is a minute-by-minute breakdown of how to run the Brain Trust.
DINNER & WELCOME (45 minutes)
A...
STEP FIVE:
Debrief & Follow Up
What happened? What’s next?
34
Let’s make sense of it all.
What you do after the Brain Trust is as important as everything else you have done
so far, com...
REFLECTION
QUESTIONS
As you reflect back on the event,
think through these questions. You
will want to either write them d...
ACTION
STEPS
The Brain Trust is designed to
produce coherent action. Revisiting
the ideas, tests, and resources
offered du...
PEOPLE TO
STITCH IN
As a quilter sews in each new patch,
your job is to find ways to “stitch” the
right people into what y...
Don’t forget to say thank you.
Very few actions are more powerful for building community than expressions of
gratitude. By...
THE END
You have finished the Brain Trust, but it’s just the beginning of your journey with this team.
Go and build someth...
The Brain Trust is the brain
child of Assemble.
Assemble designs and runs workshops to help teams launch and grow amazing ...
42
(keep going…)
43
Almost there!
You found it!
Welcome to the Brain Trust secret bonus book! It shows you exactly what we do at
Assemble to plan, run, and ...
Here’s what we’ll do.
Over eight weeks, we’ll walk you step-by-step through a process for creating and
launching a Brain T...
HOW IT WORKS
The GATHER phase is when we host your event. We arrange all the
logistics—venue, food, drinks, everything—and...
TOUCH POINTSTotal time commitment from you for the whole process is about 5 hours, broken down
into eight touch points.
1....
WHAT YOU GET
Your Own Case Study
Using your words from our interviews,
we’ll refine your story into your very
own case stu...
Imagine what you can do with this
dream team, once they’re fully
committed to your vision..
LIFELONG
CUSTOMERS
NEW COFOUND...
Meet Our Facilitators
Trevor Boehm
Trevor is a Venture Fellow at UnLtd USA, which
invests in entrepreneurs who are tacklin...
Email Trevor at
trevor@howweassemble.com

Ready to get started?
51
Down the
Rabbit Hole
AN APPENDIX FOR FURTHER
READING
Here’s a list of the reading,
research, and work that has
shaped the ...
Upcoming SlideShare
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The Brain Trust: How to Get the Right People Bought Into Your Vision and Help Solve Your Biggest Challenges

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Published on

How to get your community to help you with your most pressing challenges.

The Brain Trust is a step-by-step process for startups, leaders, and anyone with a vision to get something off the ground to get the smartest people they know deeply committed to what they're doing.

Use this process to build an advisory board, to help you launch a new product, or prepare for you next fundraise.

Created with love by Assemble. howweassemble.com

The Brain Trust: How to Get the Right People Bought Into Your Vision and Help Solve Your Biggest Challenges

  1. 1. THE BRAIN TRUSTHow to use your community to help you solve your biggest challenges. Designed and run by Assemble 1
  2. 2. Starting something is hard. For most of us, it feels a lot like this… 2
  3. 3. But what if… You could get it to feel like this? 3
  4. 4. Hi, we’re Assemble! We help organizations become unreasonably effective at working together. We’re a team of coaches, facilitators, and interaction designers who create and lead custom workshops to help you build trust, make decisions, and get things done. Our core product is the Brain Trust—it’s an 8-week process to get the perfect people to help you with your biggest challenges. We created this short book to show you exactly how to run your very own Brain Trust. Enjoy! 4
  5. 5. THE BRAIN TRUST A process to bring together the perfect people to move your vision forward. 5
  6. 6. The idea for a Brain Trust is simple: use your community to solve your biggest challenges. Most of us don’t think we know the right people to help us launch and grow what we’re doing. The truth is, almost all of us know a few select people who can have a dramatic impact on the future of our ventures. The key is to identify who those people are and then build a structure to bring them into what you’re doing. 6
  7. 7. Here’s why it works. The Brain Trust is a microcosm of almost everything a leader does to get their vision off the ground: finding and telling a great story, setting clear, ambitious goals, mapping ways forward to achieve those goals, identifying and rigorously testing assumptions, and persuading, recruiting, and collaborating with people to help make your vision a reality. By embedding each of these tasks into a rigorous process and within the context of a carefully selected community, the Brain Trust helps you accomplish in a few hours what would have taken months. 7
  8. 8. How to Run a Brain Trust Step 1: Choose Your Challenge Step 2: Pick Your People Step 3: Tell Your Story Step 4: Get Them Together Step 5: Debrief & Followup 8
  9. 9. STEP ONE: Choose Your Challenge What will you take on? 9
  10. 10. The challenge is the reason you are convening a Brain Trust. A great challenge presents a clear choice and contrasts what your world is like now with what it could be like in the future—if you can overcome your challenge. Identify your challenge by asking yourself these questions: “What keeps me up at night?”, “What roadblocks or bottlenecks are keeping my from accomplishing what I want?”, “Things that frustrate me that I’d like to correct”, and “What opportunity in front of us is too good to pass up?”. There are three basic kinds of challenges that are perfect for Brain Trusts. 10
  11. 11. THE CROSSROADS Do we go left or right? 11
  12. 12. THE MOUNTAIN How do we get to the top? 12
  13. 13. THE PUZZLE Can we solve it? 13
  14. 14. Now that you know the challenge, you can identify who can help you solve it. 14
  15. 15. STEP TWO: Pick Your People Who should you invite? 15
  16. 16. The “who” of the Brain Trust is where the magic happens. And not just for what they bring to the table. The people you invite will bring exponentially more resources, experience, and insight, but more importantly, the experience of drawing them into a current challenge implicates those people in your success. The Brain Trust shifts their perspective from “what if you…?” to “what if we…?”. Brain Trusts work best with six to ten people. Here are four core types of people to consider. 16
  17. 17. THE CONNECTOR The connector knows lots of people— preferably lots of your potential customers. They are also well- respected. 17
  18. 18. THE CUSTOMER The customer is someone who has already or might one day buy your product or service. 18
  19. 19. THE MENTOR The mentor is someone in your field who you go to for advice and wisdom. They have historical knowledge about your industry and have developed strong pattern recognition. 19
  20. 20. THE PARTNER The partner is someone you work with or could work with, like a supplier, a freelancer, or distributor. They should be someone who works in your space, offers a unique perspective on it, and that you want to work with more in the future. 20
  21. 21. A few more tips on the list… ✓ Lead with your needs. Ask yourself: What do I need to make this venture a success? Then, Who do I know who can help with each of these needs, or might know someone who can? ✓ Think outside of your close connections. Network scientists have found that people who you are least connected with offer the most opportunities. They call these people “weak ties”, and they are (ironically) quite strong. ✓ Go for at least one big ask. Make it someone you don’t know but who you respect immensely. ✓ Think twice about “experts.” They make their living giving advice, so they are unlikely to say yes. Besides, the only true experts are the people you serve—your customers or beneficiaries. ✓ Have too many people? Prioritize people who don’t know each other. They will bring unique resources and ideas. Also, look for battle scars. People who have tried things before, especially unsuccessfully, are going to bring the humility and empathy needed to truly help. 21
  22. 22. STEP THREE: Tell Your Story How do you get them to care? 22
  23. 23. “It all started when…” Your first job with the people you bring into your Brain Trust is to get them to care. The best way to do that is to pull them into your story—the specific and vulnerable moments that led you to where you are today. A good story creates connection, it causes your audience to feel what you feel, yearn for what you yearn for, and believe what you believe. Each person’s story is unique, but the structure of stories can be quite similar. 23
  24. 24. THE AUDIENCE All great storytelling begins with understanding who you’re talking to and what is going to speak directly to them. Take a few seconds to think about the background, motivations, and needs of the people you are inviting. They probably want to help because . At the end of the day, what they really care about is . You know what would make them feel amazing? If I . 24
  25. 25. THE ORIGIN Take us back to the moment you realized the vision for what you are doing or made the decision to pursue it. Your story should tell your “call to adventure”—a clear turning point to a new, exciting, and challenging world. “So, I was , when, all of a sudden, . That’s when I decided I wanted to .” 25
  26. 26. THE CHALLENGE The challenge lays out the reason you’ve decided to host a Brain Trust. In one sentence, state your challenge: the crossroads you must choose between, the mountain you must climb, or the puzzle you must solve. “Now, fast-forward to today. Here’s the challenge—and the opportunity—in front of us: .” 26
  27. 27. THE CONTEXT The context gives your audience the information they will need to work together on this challenge. What have you tried already? What events led up to this moment? What other details and data points might be helpful? “Here’s what you need to know to help us solve it: 1. . 2. . 3. .” 27
  28. 28. THE STAKES What’s at stake here? If you can get this right, what amazing thing will you be able to do that you couldn’t do before? Show your audience why this challenge matters and how the work you are about to do is incredibly important. “If we can solve this, we’ll be able to . Everything will change because .” 28
  29. 29. Tips on telling a great story. ✓ Start in the middle of things. Throw us into the middle of a scene and describe it to us. ✓ Lead with vulnerability. The more honest you are, the more engaged and trusting people will be. Push yourself to share your fears, your questions, and your failures. ✓ Tell the story multiple times. When you introduce the idea, at the beginning of the event, and in communication with them before and after. Telling the story is the way you can reinforce the “why” behind what you are doing. ✓ To get started, just start talking. The easiest way to start fleshing out your story is in conversation. Find a trusted friend or partner, press record on your phone, and just tell your story. Then, transcribe the conversation and refine it. 29
  30. 30. STEP FOUR: Get Them Together What do you actually do? 30
  31. 31. It’s showtime. You know what to work on, who to bring in, and how to get them to care. Now it’s time to engage those people and get to work collaborating. 31
  32. 32. A Timeline of Communication This is a timeline for what you should communicate when to the people in your Brain Trust. Invite Send Details Host Event Say Thanks Next Steps -15+ Days =14+ Days +1 Day +7 Days 32
  33. 33. The Night of the Event Here is a minute-by-minute breakdown of how to run the Brain Trust. DINNER & WELCOME (45 minutes) After a brief welcome, we give a preview of the night and enjoy a great meal. LAUNCH (15 min) Tell your story. Sets the scene: how did it all start? What has led you to this moment? THE CHALLENGE (5 min) This is crux of the event. We lay out the question or challenge that we will wrestle. Q&A (10 min) What do we need to understand still? BRAINSTORM (5 min) Write down on post-it notes as many ways forward that you can think of. DEBATE (20 min) One person takes a stand: “Out of all that we brainstormed, this is where we should head and why.” Do you agree or disagree? VOTE (1 min) The debate’s over. It’s time to choose: which idea will we move forward? CREATE A TEST (20 min) What can we do to test this idea cheaply and quickly? FIND WHO CAN HELP (10 min) Who do we know who could be helpful here? REFLECT AND CONCLUDE (5 min) What just happened? Why do you think it happened? What will you take away from tonight? 33
  34. 34. STEP FIVE: Debrief & Follow Up What happened? What’s next? 34
  35. 35. Let’s make sense of it all. What you do after the Brain Trust is as important as everything else you have done so far, combined. Your personal debrief is where you reflect on what you learned, translate insights into specific next steps, and identify ways to further stitch the community into what you are creating. Then, you will follow up with each person expressing gratitude and offering a clear invitation to stay involved. 35
  36. 36. REFLECTION QUESTIONS As you reflect back on the event, think through these questions. You will want to either write them down or record yourself answering them. • What did you see happening? Why do you think it happened? • What was surprising? • I liked… • I wish… • What if… • What questions do you still have? 36
  37. 37. ACTION STEPS The Brain Trust is designed to produce coherent action. Revisiting the ideas, tests, and resources offered during the event, create a concrete action plan for the next thirty days. • Look at each idea presented. Which have highest potential for impact? Which ones do you want to move forward? • What needs to happen this week? This month? The next three months? • What tests will we run? How will we measure them? • Who will be responsible for what? • What’s not actionable now—but should be revisited down the road? 37
  38. 38. PEOPLE TO STITCH IN As a quilter sews in each new patch, your job is to find ways to “stitch” the right people into what you are doing in ways that are mutually beneficial. • Who showed a disproportionate interest in what we’re doing? • What does each person want? What can we do this week to help them get it? • What can we do to delight them and show our gratitude? • Who should we meet next? • What small asks or provisional commitments can we make now that might lead to bigger ones down the road? 38
  39. 39. Don’t forget to say thank you. Very few actions are more powerful for building community than expressions of gratitude. By following up quickly with a genuine thank you and specific examples of how their effort had an impact on you, you solidify the work you began at the Brain Trust and lay the foundation for more good work to be done. 39
  40. 40. THE END You have finished the Brain Trust, but it’s just the beginning of your journey with this team. Go and build something amazing together. 40pssst! down here!
  41. 41. The Brain Trust is the brain child of Assemble. Assemble designs and runs workshops to help teams launch and grow amazing things. We’ve launched two startups, sourced and managed investments into a couple dozen others, and have walked side-by-side with over a hundred leaders, entrepreneurs, and people crazy enough to believe they can create something out of nothing. We’ll also run the Brain Trust process in its entirety for you or your team. Want to see how? 41
  42. 42. 42 (keep going…)
  43. 43. 43 Almost there!
  44. 44. You found it! Welcome to the Brain Trust secret bonus book! It shows you exactly what we do at Assemble to plan, run, and follow up with a Brain Trust for you and your team. You’ll also get access to a lot of the background resources that have help formed the way we do and think about things. 44
  45. 45. Here’s what we’ll do. Over eight weeks, we’ll walk you step-by-step through a process for creating and launching a Brain Trust. By the end of the eight weeks, you will have crafted your story in a way that makes people go out of their way to help you, uncovered your riskiest assumptions to test, made massive progress on a current challenge, identified exponentially more people to pull into your vision, and recruited a life- long team of advisors.
  46. 46. HOW IT WORKS The GATHER phase is when we host your event. We arrange all the logistics—venue, food, drinks, everything—and facilitate the entire conversation, so you can focus on being fully present. LAUNCH (3 weeks) GATHER (1 weeks) EXECUTE (4 weeks) In LAUNCH, we help you to communicate your vision, outline the challenges you’re facing, and identify exactly who you should pull into your Brain Trust. In EXECUTE, we reflect on what you’ve learned, translate insights into specific next steps, and identify ways to further stitch your community into what you are creating.
  47. 47. TOUCH POINTSTotal time commitment from you for the whole process is about 5 hours, broken down into eight touch points. 1. Kick off Call (30 min) - identify challenge and invite list. 2. Story Call (30 min) - flesh out the context and story behind how you got here. 3. Email Invites (15 min) - we give you email scripts, you send the pitches. 4. Prep Call (15 min) - talk through the night and any questions 5. Brain Trust! (2 - 2 1/2 hours) - showtime. 6. Debrief Call (30 min) - talk through reflection and insights 7. Next Steps Call (30 min) - create an action plan from what you learned. 8. Final Check In (30 min) - one month after the brain trust, discuss long-term change.
  48. 48. WHAT YOU GET Your Own Case Study Using your words from our interviews, we’ll refine your story into your very own case study. 1:1 Coaching Get intensive, one-on-one time with one of our facilitators to help you get clarity on your challenge. Dinner & Drinks Dinner, beer, and wine are included as a part of the Brain Trust. We’ll also handle all the venue logistics. Strategic Action Plan You’ll finish the Brain Trust with a list of exactly what you need to do next with your venture. Audio Recordings You’ll get audio files with recordings of all of our meetings so you can go back and review them later. Contacts List We’ll help your Brain Trust identify people who can help you, so that you walk away with an entire list of new potential introductions. ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 48
  49. 49. Imagine what you can do with this dream team, once they’re fully committed to your vision.. LIFELONG CUSTOMERS NEW COFOUNDERS POTENTIAL INVESTORS BRAND ADVOCATES 16 NEW SHOULDERS TO CRY ON* TRUE FRIENDS *We’re (mostly) joking about this one. 49
  50. 50. Meet Our Facilitators Trevor Boehm Trevor is a Venture Fellow at UnLtd USA, which invests in entrepreneurs who are tackling our most pressing problems. Trevor led the launch of Get Backed, a bestselling book on startup fundraising, has designed programs for the Acton MBA, and was the founder of the e-commerce startup Penny. Mark Hand Mark teaches Social Entrepreneurship at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas and is a Venture Partner at UnLtd USA. He was also an Entrepreneur Fellow at Oxford University's Saïd Business School, where he redesigned the core MBA entrepreneurship course. Reagan Pugh Reagan taught a leadership course at Texas State University, Trinity University, and San Angelo State. He was the chief storyteller at the innovation consulting firm Kalypso. He’s a Teach For America alumni and the Editor-In-Chief of Placeness, a literary journal about Austin and those who call it home. 50
  51. 51. Email Trevor at trevor@howweassemble.com Ready to get started? 51
  52. 52. Down the Rabbit Hole AN APPENDIX FOR FURTHER READING Here’s a list of the reading, research, and work that has shaped the what, the why, and the how behind the Brain Trust. BUSINESS, & ENTREPRENEURSHIP GETTING TO PLAN B BUSINESS MODEL GENERATION GET BACKED MAKING DECISIONS EFFECTUATION NETWORK THEORY STRENGTH OF WEAK TIES WORKING TOGETHER LEARNING TO LISTEN, LEARNING TO TEACH STORYTELLING RESONATE 52

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