Where to find Ideas
What I am reading/ listening too....
  • The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion
    The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion
    by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown, Lang Davison
  • Five Chiefs: A Supreme Court Memoir
    Five Chiefs: A Supreme Court Memoir
    by John Paul Stevens

Rants and Raves

Saturday
Jan262013

Thoughts Out Loud 1(TOL #1)

One potential albeit capatalist view of the future to reduce government costs-  advertising and branding will come together to sponsor your kids from cradle to grave. In the hopes that they find the next John Lennon, Tiger Woods, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, or Barack Obama. Rather than dependency on our family, our intelligence, our social status, or the government, we will all be sponsored. Initially the offspring of the currently famous or infamous will bring the biggest value, but brands will want to take a chance that your DNA will give you incredible talent, leadership or skills.  Imagine that new tattoo at birth - your kid brought to you by Nike, IBM, Apple, or if papers still exist the NYTimes.  

Sunday
Dec182011

analog v digital

Don't get me wrong I love the digital world we live in and all of it's conveniences and efficiency. But what happens when everything is digital, or electronic bits. My stepdaughter attends RISD, and in their first year all students are required to take foundation courses. Courses in fundamentals, drawing, charcoal, using analog implements without any use of computers. As our society becomes more and more digital and kids start school with calculators, IPads, and smartphones; are we creating a generation that cannot think on their own without digital devices. Paper and a pencil do not require electricity. The ability to add, subtract and divide without a calculator (or when the batteries go out).

Are we becoming too reliant on computers, at a seminar I attended recently a surgeon lamented that she has to purchase Da Vinci robots because new physicians expected their hospitals to have them because that is how they trained. She added that she could tell if a patient has appendicitis without having to use diagnostic imaging, and she wondered about today's younger physicians who have grown up with MRI, CT, etc.

Recently while standing in line at the check out in a grocery store the following happened to me- just as the checker was about to ring up the change, the power went out. In my head, I determined he owed me about $2.24 and yet he seemed befuddled. He said he could not give me the change because he did not know the amount, when I informed him it was $2.24, he asked me how I knew. I said, math. Again he would not pay me, so I asked him if we could agree it was at least $2, and he said yes, so I said give me $2 and keep the change.

So either my concern is warranted, or this is how grocery checkers make a few extra $.

Monday
Nov282011

sit down comic chapter 1

Sit down Comic or (The Audacity of Humor)
by
Lee Brennan
Chapter 1-Middle Names

My first memory was looking out the upstairs window of my Grandmother’s brownstone, where three generations of our family, on my mothers side, lived. My grandmother and sometimes my step-grandfather(more on that later) lived on the first two floors. My mother’s younger, step-sister, her husband, and their daughter, lived in the middle two floors. And on the top two floors my parents, James Derek and Jean Lillian Brennan and I lived. I use my parent’s middle names here as there is a story as to why I do not have a middle name. My mother felt like middle names were a waste of space and time (but maybe not the continuum), she never used hers, she never uttered my fathers, even when mad, and she felt like all that, middle names led to were inefficiency and bad nicknames. This is also why my name is short, because as my mother explained--long names led to nicknames, James became Jimmy or Jim, Robert --Bobby or Bob, Richard -- Rich or the even worse Dick, and so my name is short and sweet- Lee Brennan.

What my mother did not count on was that short names led to additive or longer nicknames, such as, and these are just a few of mine, Lee Bonk, Lee the Flea, Lee Bob (when I lived in Texas and everyone was named “fill in blank” Bob) and Lee Cakes. The other thing Jean Lillian did not count on was official documents and government forms, so many times my name became Lee No Middle Name Brennan, or the shortened version Lee NMN Brennan, or Lee Only Brennan, meaning I only had one name. In fact I had a professor at University who’s middle name was “Only” and when asked he said, “ he got tired of trying to explain why he had no middle name, so he took the name “ Only”.

This was the beginning of my love affair with Bureaucracy, insert laugh track here. The final thing my mother, rest her soul, did not count on was the Internet, where having a middle name, can actually distinguish you from a mid level pop star, named Lee Brennan. I remember when I first obtained an email address, via AOL, remember them, they and Compuserve led the pack, like IBM, Wang, Data General and a few others that have disappeared from all or partially all of our consciousness. Just after sending one of my first emails using my AOL email address, I received an email. The email, from what was obviously a Fan Girl, of the aforementioned Lee Brennan (not I, Lee “Only” Brennan), and asked if I was “The Lee Brennan”, to which I responded --Yes. This led to another email question, “THE POP STAR” , to which I replied, “NO” and “QUIT SENDING ME EMAIL”, I think I was harsher than this in my response, because her next email, was typically British… DON’T GET YOUR KNICKERS IN A TWIST. Which I often do, but when they become knotted, or I become stressed, I have resorted to humor to get me out of tough situations. My humor is not of the Stand-up kind, nor of the Humorist kind, but more a slightly British, witty, well sarcastic, biting, reactive, or as I like to refer to it as the “Sit Down” kind.

Hence the title of my book, I also considered THE AUDACITY OF HUMOR, as I have found that humor has gotten me out of many stressful situations, and I have used humor to improve my client and employee relations over the years. Or at least in my mind, I have. I am sure some of them are Dissing me on Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or some other new to be created- Social Critical website as they read this page. Of course I am assuming they are reading it, how Egocentric and self centered of me, assuming that my colleagues are actually reading this, I hope my family at least reads the book.

But the Title- THE AUDACITY OF HUMOR seemed like someone trying to ride the coat tails of the 44th President, which would be an accurate portrayal, anything to get you to pick it up. But alas I am no Barak Hussein Obama. Now there is someone with a name only a Mother could love, so maybe my mother was right.

Thursday
Nov172011

Congress lives in a Parallel Universe

Most of us are surrounded in business by terms like Thought Leaders, Innovation Economy, Lean, Collaboration, Sustainable, Green, etc. However as we watch the intransigence of Congress, I am starting to feel like they exist in a parallel universe. A world where there is no leadership but abdication, where there are no innovative ideas just rehashing old ideas or word smithing, there is no efficiency or lean there is only precedent and history and let's discuss whether our current way of life is sustainable because the way congress works is not.

Thursday
Sep082011

jury duty

I just completed seven weeks of jury duty. I cannot tell you anything about the case, but I can share some insights into what is inherently an inefficient system and what also works.
On the one hand the jury selection process is moderately high tech, using either an online or voice (telephone) activated system to walk you through the process and informing you of your status or if you need to report and when. You can also take the juror overview via an online website (sometimes it works-- it didn't the days we were scheduled ). It could be more efficient if it was an online / mobile based system for both orientation and status and if the court system could text (SMS ) or email and confirm time commitments/ status.

Once you are part of a jury panel, the inefficiency begins to magnify logarithmically. Our jury selection took almost two weeks, as each of us were asked the same questions over and over. For jurors who were part of the first panel, and even those of us in the audience this is mind numbingly boring, except for the sometimes funny answers to the judges or attorneys questions. One example- Judge. "have you or someone you know ever been convicted, witnessed or involved in a crime" . Juror response- "I was arrested for having pot in my front yard." Judge- " your front yard!".

Fortunately many of the questions are asked via a questionnaire and the follow up questions are for clarity. Some of the delay is caused by each juror attempting at all costs to "get out of jury duty". One juror stated- "I just don't want to be here". To which the judge asked the 70 odd jurors in the court room- "raise your hand if any of you want to be here" no hands went up- and the judged added to the juror who did not want to be there-" so you are not unique". The other inefficiency or time consumer is the cat and mouse game between prosecution and defense- trying to arrive at a jury that will support one of the two sides. After one juror was dismissed, who had been in a motorcycle club in his youth, I overhead the defense say "crap, we wanted him." Now if I was a defendant, I am sure that I would want my attorney doing all that it can to sway the jury to my side, however as the days of jury selection go on, it seems like all parties start to waver on what they consider a good or bad juror. I know this from a previous jury duty experience, where as one of three people left in the jury panel yet to be selected- the judge said- well we need two alternates- so you'll do" , meaning all three of us would become alternates. Not one of us were asked any questions, so it is obvious that as the time passes, jury selection seems less art or science and more just- who's left standing. Obviously for me- the attorneys thought I would make a good juror, but it would be great to understand what is going through their minds. I have heard from other architects, that our profession often gets selected-- any attorneys out there- please illuminate me on why.

I would say that 95-99% of the juror pool does not want to be there, because of the waste of our time. It's not that we don't want to serve our civic duty- it's just that the process reinforces our perception that some parts of government do not work efficiently. I am not a complete supporter of this theory, I am a bigger proponent of the theory that attorneys have learned to waste our time, through obfuscation, technicalities- or in the case of congress- ( who are almost all trained in the legal profession) just are not living in the real world. For example one morning we showed up for jury selection at the appointed time, 30 minutes later, we were paraded into the court room, only to be told that one of the defense attorneys was bed ridden, and so no court today. Why couldn't the court text , phone or email us to save us the waste of leaving work/ home early and then having to waste more time... The juror pool was very incensed by this lack of respect of our time, and the judge's response is there's no budget for contacting us- seems like this would be a simple technological fix-- ask each prospective juror for a contact number, text or email contact- then send out a global message.

However, some of this could be mitigated if the justice system would adopt some simple solutions- like the aforementioned text messaging to jurors- so that we can be informed if the time commitments are not being met; work overtime- the rest of the world has to work overtime to get caught up- yet the refrain is --"we cannot afford to pay overtime" (has anyone actually studied whether a little overtime pay would reduce backlog, not to mention the lost productivity to all of the potential jurors and the businesses or companies that they work for or run?). It seems like for the jurors- time is not a factor in the process and this is unfair to the justice system---a 12 plus community of your peers, who are "pissed off" at the waste of time. Does the defense or prosecution, or judge for that matter really want 12 angry people? My guess is NO!

Most days we were asked to be at court by 10:30 am , I would say on average we were in our seats by 11:00 am, some days 10:45 and some days 11:30 or later. We then get an hour and a half lunch break ( really? ) the rest of the world seems to get by with an hour. Now I would guess that this is to alleviate the problem of attorneys, judges, and jurors from being late. And I would agree with that, if we actually returned to the jury box by 1:30. However on most days it has averaged 2:00 pm. Again some days earlier than others. We typically receive a 15 min break for the court reporter around 3:00 pm and are done for they day at 4:30pm at the latest. Most days slightly earlier, as breaks in the action is not usually on a time schedule. This is not to say that the judge, clerks, court reporter and the attorneys are not working longer- because they are. The judge is clearing his calendar and dealing with other cases, but this is at the expense of 12 plus jurors. Has anyone studied whether working from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm every day on the same case, focused on the trial, rather than bouncing from case to case is efficient. Recent studies have shown that distractions and mult-tasking are not conducive to efficiency or retention of facts. Has anyone analyzed the impact on judges to be on the top of their game?

I recommend it is time for someone to study the system and look for improvements. Using technologies such as text messaging, or decision trees to inform jurors of schedule changes. Perhaps video taping the proceedings, rather than having court reporters. Court reporters while extremely proficient at typing fast, also require breaks, and must pick up their machines every time there is a sidebar. And don't get me started on sidebars- perhaps a soundproof booth for the jurors would be a time saver-- or a cone of silence!

Now about what works- once the 12 jurors move into deliberation- your initial thought might be - am I the only one who has this or that opinion. Or you might have come into the system with a cynical attitude, none of which was improve by the inefficiencies described above. All of this was true for me- but I must conclude this post by stating- that our system maybe flawed and inefficient, but it works. Our deliberations took about 2 1/2 days and we had numerous defendants and charges, but at the end of the day- we each had our chance to share our takes on the case and I believe justice was served. Our
panel was a cross section of our country and community, each person adding and contributing to the discussion. I am glad I served, I only wish it moved faster.