Go Ahead: Pick My Brain

by Chip Griffin on June 28, 2010

BrainToday, I came across a post from popular new media marketing blogger and entrepreneur Chris Brogan titled “Profit from ‘Pick Your Brain’ Requests.” As I read the headline, I thought to myself: “Right on! I love it when people pick my brain because it often gives me great ideas, too!”

Unfortunately, that’s not what Brogan’s post discussed. It turned out to be nothing more than a sales pitch for an online community he sells subscriptions to (and I’m not knocking that — it’s a great idea and he’s welcome to promote it on his blog or anywhere else).

But since Chris didn’t go in the direction that I thought he was headed in, I’m going to jump in with that argument myself.

You see, like Chris, I frequently get requests from folks who say I want to:

  • “Pick your brain”
  • “Bounce something off you”
  • “Run a crazy idea by you”
  • “See what you think”
  • “Share what I’m doing”

These and other related variations come down the pike to me on a regular basis. Like Chris, my schedule is tight and it’s hard to accommodate every request in a timely fashion, but I do my best. Having coffee, lunch, a drink, or coffee with these folks is a minimal investment of my time, and I’m comfortable with not needing to charge for it. Obviously, I need to do such sessions in moderation so as not to disrupt my primary job.

The truth is that I usually get as much out of these sessions as I give. It’s not that I don’t have anything useful to say (I like to think that I share a lot of good insight and feedback). Rather, the benefit comes to me from several directions.

The Value of Hearing New Ideas

I’m an ideas guy. I always have a bunch of them bouncing around inside my head. But I really get fueled up when I hear what other people are thinking about. It often takes my thinking in a new direction. Sometimes what I hear from these Pick Your Brain meetings will marry up well with an idea I have, and we can pull them together. That’s led to more than one good business opportunity for me. More often, the idea I hear helps me refine my thinking on something entirely unrelated to what my visitor is working on, but I may be able to implement it myself somewhere down the road.

The Value of Sharing Lessons and Feedback

If you’re like me, you probably don’t step back and examine what you’re doing on your own ideas and projects as often as you should or would like. We all get caught up in the daily grind and lose track of the big picture. That’s why I like hearing what other entrepreneurs and professionals are working on and how the challenges they’re facing. I often get the chance to share the lessons I’ve learned over the past couple of decades — and it forces me to think about my current efforts and how those lessons should be applied to what I’m doing now instead of just viewing it as history.

The Value of Teaching

It is sometimes said that the best way to learn something is to teach it. It is not uncommon for me to find myself in a brain picking situation where I find myself gelling my own thinking on the fly as I offer my views and advice to my visitor. In these cases, I’m not sharing something that’s common, I’m refining my own learning as I go. This can prove incredibly valuable to me as I can then apply these suddenly learned lessons to my other activities.

The Value of Relationships

It turns out that conversations centered around brain picking are valuable ways to establish, renew, and reinforce relationships. I would guess that about half of these sessions that I do are with people that I already know — some very well — while the remainder are with “friends of friends” or others whom I know relatively little about. These conversations serve as great venues to expand networks (mine and theirs) which can often prove profitable down the road.

The Value of the Unusual

Some of the most fun I have is when I get to do a brain picking meeting with someone in an entirely different field. I have talked with people who are engaged in the retail business, the restaurant industry, and consumer products. Our backgrounds and interests are often very divergent, but that actually helps me to be more creative. It tests my own comfort zone and let’s me ask questions without the burden of assumed answers. This sort of mental exercise really helps improve my own agility.

So Go Ahead, Pick My Brain

Or let someone pick yours. You may just find you profit from it without any cash changing hands.

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