“Can I pick your brain?”
This question gets thrown around all the time, but for the person being asked it can be a gift and a curse. On one hand, it’s an honor to be sought out for your ideas and experience. It feels good both personally and professionally when people come to me for insight and advice, especially in an industry like mine (business consulting) where my thoughts are my commodity.
However, the fact that thoughts ARE my commodity is what lies at the root of any tension surrounding this seemingly harmless question. My business offers team building consulting and being asked for my favorite ice breakers or ways to foster innovation are exactly what I want people and organizations to buy from me.
Imagine asking a lawyer for free legal advice. Normally you wouldn’t, because we are all used to paying for their time and more importantly for their thoughts. But why? The answer is complicated, but one reason is that we understand the value behind their time. It’s the same reason you pay the Geek Squad to repair your computer rather than your nerdy, 14 year old nephew, because you find more value in the Geek Squad’s work.
I asked my friend Scott Kane about this concept. He runs Kane Community Law, which provides excellent legal counsel to small businesses in Chicago; this is what he had to say: