Cowen Cafe: The Uncut Version

On Thursday, September 3, 2020, 50+ corporate, law firm, and provider participants gathered for another Cowen Cafe Zoom meeting, sponsored by Integreon, Lineal Services, Litera, and United Lex. We started with a 30-minute group chat, separated into five breakout rooms, and reassembled for a final recap. This week there was a mood of optimism, with participants focused on budgeting, what’s next, and returning to basics – and that with all of these we will do things differently as we move forward.

This week, I am going to deviate from my usual approach. Instead of offering a summary of the discussion, I have set forth much of the discussion itself.

We have been using Zoom for these calls; no surprise there. In addition to the ability to see all participants and go into separate breakout rooms, we have the the opportunity to chat as well as talk. And chat this group does.

In the sections below, portions in quotation marks are, well, direct quotes. They come from the chats. Portions not in quotes are my notes of what folks discussed. Everyone has been pseudonymized.

A developing camaraderie

Before we get to the substantive remarks, I thought I would share a few of the lighter comments, giving a sense of the camaraderie that has developed during these sessions.

  • “I always like the side chats on these calls 0 you are like the smart*ss kids sitting at the back of the class with commentary! haha”
  • “I second that!”
  • “I love hearing about other people’s crazy/cartoon moments…it makes me feel better”

Budgeting: More, better, faster

2021 budget planning – highly involved in that process. Talked about doing less with less, but right now the ask is pretty high, its out there and its big. Don’t yet know what is going to happen at the enterprise level. [A, Corporation]

“It’s not just more – it’s faster. Sometimes it is delivering the same but faster.” [B, Association]

“More, Faster AND better quality. It’s not as hard to deliver more in a faster timeline when you cut quality but that is no longer an option. They want all three.” [C, Corporation]

Shares the pain on budgeting – they are having a really hard time figuring what to use as a level set. Hard to establish a baseline for budgeting for future. [D, Law Firm]


Are moving many things to cloud-based delivery systems, with a lot more focus on the architecture and security – looking at those things in ways have not before. Gets questions now that I do not even know how to respond to. Looking at data breaches and saying, we don’t want to be that guy. [A, Corporation]

Back to school

What’s changed: noticed a shift just in the last week: mindset shift: Don’t know why – perhaps because getting ready for next launch, because getting ready to go back to school – noticed a back to school mentality where I am setting goals for myself and the team seems reinvigorated.  See that for myself and my colleagues: do not seem to be treading water anymore. [G, Corporation]

“@[G, Corporation], I have signed up for 2 new classes to get my brain working again.” [H, Provider]

“Interesting, [G, Corporation]. I see it as people being aware of the calendar again.” [B, Association]

“@[H, Provider] that’s awesome. What kind of classes?” [G, Corporation]

“one on Blockchain and another privacy class.” [H, Provider]

“@[B, Association] I think that the calendar is certainly a factor. @[H, Provider] that’s awesome. I think I need to take some classes or start a side project. I think I’m mentally ready to pursue those things again.” [G, Corporation]

A seat at the table – and leveling playing field

Re how to get a seat at the table: Look at what Andy Murray has done in his tennis conference calls, where he calls out personal details that normalize things. Yesterday, in press conference, reporter was asking question and moderator talked over her because of transmission delay: is incumbent on all leaders to make sure that if someone gets talked over, make sure that person gets a chance to speak. [E, Corporation]

I was trying to say that in the last week or so getting a seat at the table is much easier because we all are remote and all are working together. Levels the playing field, things like dog barking or kids playing in the background. Thinks that is really good. Even though levels the playing field, still need to be respectful and professional. [F, Corporation]

“Definitely is a different dynamic [F, Corporation]” [I, Provider]

“[F, Corporation] has a good point. I’ve found some leveling of that playing field and an openness among zoom participants. Guess people are feeling ‘at home’.” [J, Corporation]

“The leveling the playing field conversation is interesting. I think this creates opportunities for people who haven’t had them. But it also shifts the balance to people who have figured out how to shine in a remote environment and to use technology well.” [B, Association]

This really has been the great leveler. Have had access to people did not have access to before. Being in each others homes has made people friendlier. [J, Corporation]

“@[J, Corporation] – once you have a screaming child run across a Zoom call, everything is normalized.” [K, Provider]

The elephant in the room

Elephant in room: Feels pressure from election and the like, from the energy that has been going on out there. [L, Corporation]

“@[L, Corporation] 100% agree” [G, Corporation]

“So true [K, Provider]. So true. And [L, Corporation] you nailed it. Those are good points.” [J, Corporation]

“@[K, Provider], agreed” [H, Provider]

“Agree that election and social just issues are making things feel ‘chaotic’ and unpredictable even if things are relativity calm at my home.” [M, Corporation]

“it is a very chaotic world out there” [N, Law Firm]

“The election and related issues is so pervasive and on people’s mind.” [A, Corporation]

“I think innovation has to baked into our organizations rather than ‘project-ized.” [B, Association]

“Innovation is the term for ‘new normal” [H, Provider]

“@[B, Association] exactly — I’m hoping we start doing ‘innovation by design’ — we can’t keep trying to force it every few years when we realize we are behind” [E, Corporation]

“So important that innovation be outcome-driven. Love that Henry Ford quote: ‘If I had given people what they asked for, I would have given them a faster horse.'” [B, Association]

“Steve Jobs once said that if he asked CD users what they wanted, they would have said a smaller CD….not the MP3 player.” [A, Corporation]

“These are true. Sometimes we don’t know what to ask for because it hasn’t been invented yet.” [O, Corporation]

“Those are great quotes, but for us non-visionaries, asking the customer what they want works pretty well too… :)” [P, Provider]

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