Online courses in the entrepreneurial world have been and continue to be a hot topic because of the many benefits to online business owners, including the abilities to

  • Generate passive income
  • Reach more people
  • Charge premium pricing
  • Amplify authority
  • Scale a business

Because it’s one of the faster and easier ways to create passive income, many online entrepreneurs are anxious to create one for themselves, and tons of course creation experts are offering to help.

Here’s the rub: A lot of the course creation advice out there is either poor or incomplete. I’ve seen scads of course creation outlines and checklists that sound something like this:

  1. Do a brain dump of possible topics!*
  2. Do a brain dump of everything you know about the topic!
  3. Chunk the brain dump into steps.
  4. Put the steps in logical order.
  5. Create graphics, etc., etc.

*To be fair, this step is often followed up with “poll your audience” before selecting a topic. Which is sound advice – but only if you ask the right question.

What’s with All the Brain Dumps?

First of all, I do believe there is a time and place for “brain dumping.” For example, you need to get all of your to-dos out of your head and onto paper (or into your task manager), Getting Things Done style. Often, we online, working-from-home entrepreneurs spend too much time in our heads, and “brain dumping” can help with that.

However, when you need to dump your brain, how do you feel? Creative and strategic? Or is it more like overwhelmed and maybe a little icky? Do you think that the mindset you’re in during a brain dump is ideal for trying to create something amazing? Something you want to build to help people, to serve your audience?

I submit to you that it’s not.

The Problem with a Brain Dump: It’s Still a Dump.

  • When waste management hauls your garbage away, they take it to the dump.
  • When we wanted representative government, we dumped the tea in the harbor.
  • When we’re having a sad spell, we’re down in the dumps.
  • When we find out our significant other is cheating, we dump them.
  • When someone points out your flaws to you, they’re dumping on you.
  • When you’re in the bathroom, you’re…

You get the idea.

Brain Dumping v. Brainstorming

Okay, so that part was meant to be amusing, but I do have valid points to make, as well.  Maybe it’s just me splitting hairs, but I think there’s a distinction between “brain dumping” and “brainstorming.” However, I might be alone on this because if you search “brain dump” or “brain dumping,” you will find that many are using the two terms synonymously. But I don’t like it.  Stick with me here.

Think about it: Synonyms for the noun dump are cesspool, heap, junk pile; and for the verb, they’re chuck, pitch, deep-six. But brain dumping is a good, creative process? I disagree.

Brainstorming is a creative process – it’s generating new, fresh ideas by allowing your brain to ‘do its thing’ and put concepts together in novel ways.  But brain dumping is just getting all the crap that’s already in your head out onto paper.  You’re dumping when you move beyond your brainstorm and scrape the bottom of the barrel. It’s the mental equivalent of dumpster diving. You come up with the dregs. But again, maybe it’s just me.

My Two Issues with Brain Dumping for Course Creation

My first issue has to do with the example step #1, above: “Do a brain dump of possible topics.”

Don’t brain dump, brainstorm. But more importantly, don’t brainstorm course topics. Brainstorm problems your audience is having for which you have a solution.  A good course begins with a problem, not a topic.

Now, the other, bigger problem I have with brain dumping your way to course creation is with step #2: “Do a brain dump of everything you know about the topic!”

Insert all the no’s right here.

Your audience (i.e., potential course participants) don’t need to know everything you know about the topic. And it might sound like a harmless activity to put it all down on paper, but I fear that if you dump it all, you’re likely to try to cram all of it into your course. And that’s not what people want or need from you. If they needed everything you know, they’d just be you.

Instead, take the problem you are going to solve for your audience and go to the solution and work backward. Imagine what they’ll be, do, or have once they’ve completed your course, figure out what they need to get from “here” to “there,” and work back. And include only the steps and information they need to solve that ONE problem. That is, it’s not about everything you know, it’s about what they need to know.

And nothing more.

Until next time, Stay Brilliant (and out of the dumps!), my friend!

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