The brains trust – who’s in yours?

Posted on July 19, 2012


Brain trust…? Brains trust? I prefer the latter. (Less so this type of Brains trust.) Whatever the choice of words, the idea that you have a group of confidantes, advisors, big thinkers and heavy hitters – I won’t go on – is important to all types of organisation now.

Actors and athletes have an entourage but your company’s brains trust shouldn’t carry any deadweight. They should be people who want you to win, who are plainly on your side.

Perhaps most of all, you will trust them.

So how do you decide whom to turn to? It’s a bit like having a mentor, only times five. Or six. Or eight. More than eight and you’re probably going to have way too many brains and too little trust.

Politicians have been famous for their brains trust. Maybe FDR in the US in the 1930s and 1940s, through the New Deal, was most well-known for his trusted inner circle.

When I was an editor I was a big believer in an editorial board, a modest type of brains trust. Given it was for a business publication, it contained those who had worked in publishing, including a CIO formerly at two big UK media owners and a media agency owner – basically someone who knew how advertising was spent. Then there were lawyers, investor types and a leading UK futurist.

As well as trusting them and having their support, they were all – still are – super bright.

Not having worked as a publisher, editor or journalist they also saw things differently, saw shortcuts and often asked great “Why wouldn’t you…?” questions.

But outside publishing, is a brains trust necessary?

Not universally, no. That’s the short answer. But don’t just think about the idea (forget the name, terrible name) as something for top companies or publications.

I’ve been working with such people on all the small businesses I’ve been involved in of late. You don’t say “You’re part of our brains trust” but people know they’re in an inner circle, helping out usually because they like you, want to see you succeed, want to learn something and maybe one day will call on me. (Don Corleone-style?)

I’d go as far as to say don’t enter any new, major venture without your brains trust lined up, at the very least. Ideally they’re key influencers in even planning a particular future.

Who’s in the Collective Content brains trust? That’s a blog for another day.

*Photo Brain  by dierk schaefer used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic (CC by 2.0).

Follow Tony on Twitter – @tphallett

Posted in: Work