Archive for October 2010
Our older kid and I had gone out canoeing last summer. In a classic dad role, I embraced a premise that I would handle the bulk of the paddling. Our kid would enjoy a ride, scenery, and conversation with Dad while occasionally experimenting with a few junior paddles, varying in shape, length, and weight.
The waters were relatively calm at our start, albeit we were closer to land of course. We knew the weather conditions were changeable. Out toward the bigger lake, a breeze picked up while we headed down a channel. Rather than venture fully onto the larger lake after which our return trip would face directly into the wind, I selected a crosswise path opening to a land-hugging inlet.
Problem was I needed to apply tacking force upon a decades-old paddle. Snap. Quite suddenly.
Fortunately, we had the idle junior paddles aboard. No time to waste, we were being carried swiftly to the bigger open lake. While smaller, one of the junior paddles served its purpose for me. Heading directly up our original channel into the headwind, I could intermittently push sideways out of the flow and use the weeds to hold our canoe for resting. While our kid was alarmed, a variety of lessons came.
Who can forget the saying: “up a creek without a paddle”? Certainly, we each had paddles and flotation jackets on board. A refinement on the lesson came upon us that I thought to also explore in applicability to business situations. My updated adage is: “always have an extra paddle aboard for your strongest paddler.”
Slow Down, You Move Too Fast
As a memorable aside, I enjoyed a natural sight overlooked on other trips. Tern chicks had been left to practice hopping, swimming, and flying among lily pads while their parents gathered food. Actually, the adult terns seemed more surprised to see us pausing parallel to their chicks than we were of the broken paddle predicament.
Since the lesson was new to me, I hadn’t conscious examples of, and continue to consider, application of the “extra paddle” lesson. During 2001-2005, I was a co-founding partner of an earlier law firm. Executing part of the business model, I intensely mentored a staff of engineers as patent agent trainees. With a goal to leverage my experience in patent preparation and prosecution through strategic application of collaborative review with each of multiple trainees within our office along individual drafting timelines, I recognized I was fulfilling a different role. My responsibility on that front was to apply legal expertise for quality work product while being present for, though ideally a step removed from full analysis of, all the innermost technical details of invention disclosures and conferences.
Indirectly Applying the Lesson of the Day
Mindful of cash outlays, I had chosen to use a lesser computer system as the staff acquired skills, and allocate the better computer systems to the patent agent trainees. My prioritization of these tools correlated to tasks performed in manipulating and creating extents of text and drawings, including reworking of drafts by employees as needed from my feedback. More directly on the “extra paddle” lesson, yet unconsciously, we had additional computers that we could allow the professional staff to use in the event their systems went down, potentially even sharing or handing over my office computer when I could work remotely on my home computer. Another variation involved use of my off-hours for review and comment so the employees had my feedback ready to move forward upon the start of their regular workday. In one aspect, the “extra paddle” was embodied in a better or backup computer for the staff closest to the raw drafting. In another aspect, the “extra paddle” was represented by work available for the salaried staff to perform toward profitability of the law firm.
Reins in Hand
Moving ahead to the current decade in my own law office, the lesson has applied across several areas, including collaborative interaction with clients and their technical people, physical and electronic resources, data, billing, and extra activities including volunteering. I enjoy reflecting on the “extra paddle” insight and applying its value.
Squarely in autumn now, you may sincerely ask about a lag in preparing this post. Even when I first mulled insights, I identified variously-sized projects on my plate with potential for mounting expansion, with others likely emerging here and there, building from versatility of my current practice. Helpfully, a bunch of tweets captured a series of my thoughts at the time, recalling details of the experience and context.
http://twitter.com/bobbrill/status/17754872702 In the year 2075 I could announce a new blog post via mind assembly. Alas in 2010 thoughts need queue for interface behind other tasks
http://twitter.com/bobbrill/status/17716724456 seeing kids sleeping recalled younger’s “i may be dreaming” joy after fireworks
http://twitter.com/bobbrill/status/17715134627 intertwining of mind and senses as quietude shifts posture to seeking rather than feedback from saturating stimuli
http://twitter.com/bobbrill/status/17712944307 to hear 5+ bird types at sunrise so uplifting
http://twitter.com/bobbrill/status/17697257051 wild black raspberries. small town carnival for kids’ rides. fireworks
As mentioned in my earlier post, I am again leading a volunteer team organizing an event for MIT EF Chicago in the Chicago Loop 5-8pm Tuesday March 15, 2011. The last two such events have been sold out. Our planned subject matter is “Open Innovation.” Our committed speakers are:
Our speakers have prepared comments that I have run by the communications members of our volunteer team to draft a marketing copy that the speakers can then review and further edit for finalization and approval to publicly circulate for our event. You are welcome to help spread the word to those who may be interested in hearing about this event. Even while the official registration has yet to open, I invite and encourage any and everyone interested to add a promotional RSVP or simply click “Interested” or “Maybe Attending” on the LinkedIn page and Facebook page for this event.
Text Copyright © 2010 Bob Brill
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