This post is another part of a continuing series of posts I’ll be doing over the next month or so that I’m calling DennisKennedy.Next. You can find others under that tag on this blog. I’ve previously posted A New Approach to Publishing My Articles, My New Approach to Speaking and Allison Shields and I Are Writing a New LinkedIn Book.

I’ve taken some time after leaving Mastercard and relocating to Ann Arbor to regroup, rethink, and refocus. I’ve talked to many people, done a lot of reading and study, and learned much from teaching two classes at Michigan State University’s College of Law. My wife and daughter have called it my “gap year.” After finishing this past semester, I’m ready to launch some new things this summer. Hence, DennisKennedy.Next.

In part, this series of posts is a way to reply to the many people who have been asking me what I’ll be doing next. To one’s surprise, I’m sure, fully retiring was never in the cards for me. The blueprint laid out in David Corbett’s Portfolio Life was always in my mind.

So many of my friends have told me that one piece of what I need to be doing is something that calls to me and both fits and moves me. Others call this their “passion project.” That’s a good term.

The Kennedy Idea Propulsion Center (more on the origin of the name in a minute) will be my passion project. In 3 – 5 years, I expect that most of my time will be spent on that project.

In a few ways, I went back to my childhood on this one. Let me explain.

As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the lunar landing, I found myself not just excited about that, but remembering my immersion into everything about the NASA space program and the Apollo 11 mission. I remember vividly what was happening when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. And I know that I’ll be outside on this July 20 at 10:56 PM Eastern looking up at the moon, remember that evening fifty years ago.

We recently watched a documentary on the Apollo 8 mission (highly recommended). In several scenes, people mentioned the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I’ve always loved the sound of that name. I also enjoyed the time I spent working with the Mastercard Labs team. When I came up with a new name for my LLC, many of the candidates had the name “Laboratory” in them, until I decided on the much more prosaic, descriptive, and probably more apt, Dennis Kennedy Advisory Services LLC.

From the JPL vision:

At NASA/JPL we strive to be bold in advancing the edge of possibility so that someday, with the help of new generations of innovators and explorers, these visions of the future can become a reality.

My friends know that, if you ever get me to open up on the topic, I’ll say that I’d like to one day work at or have my own think tank. This, too, I realize comes from my early years. The phrase grabbed me from the first time I heard about it or read about it.

I love the idea of being paid to think, help bring ideas to life, be a “Yoda,” do my own research, collaborate on big projects, and do the things we all imagine think tanks do.

About ten years or so ago, I was at an event and got the chance to talk with the amazing Dave Gray, founder of Xplane, and the topic of my think tank came up. Dave said, “if you got $500,000 to start it now, what would it look like?” I stammered and stumbled and realized that ideas are one thing, but bringing them into action is something far different. And that a think tank idea would take some serious, well, thinking.

My recent flash of inspiration was putting those two notions together. One morning, I found the phrase “idea propulsion center” in my brain. A quick Google search showed that the phrase had never been used. “The Kennedy Idea Propulsion Center” was a short step from there.

I’m know for generating many ideas, seeing things in new ways, and for helping people get ideas out of their heads and into the real world to at least experiment with. I’m a bit less good at doing that with my own ideas, but usually people need help or a guide.

I did some quick sanity check testing. My Ann Arbor buddy Cash Butler at ClariLegal called me and I ran it by him. He thought I needed a tagline and suggested something about “The New IP.” I was dubious, but saw a bit of potential in “The New IP – not intellectual property, idea propulsion.” Maybe. A bit.

“Idea propulsion” pulls some key notions I care about together. Ideas, of course. More important, however, velocity, direction, and movement. Getting ideas from being trapped in your mind to out in the world working. Taking brainstorming results and turning them into prototypes, for example.

Laboratory, of course, brings in the notion of experimentation, testing, feedback, recalibrating, and the like.

I decided there was no point overthinking this anymore. I wanted to get it out into the world.

The final piece for me comes from my own history on the web and blogging. If you want to create something, you just do it and announce it. That was the story of my original webpage in 1995. Another examples was when I decided that there should be annual legal blogging awards and, seeing none, I simply announced my own Blawggies. People paid attention to them for the twelve years I did them. And it was just me putting my opinions out there for people to see and react to.

So, with this post, the Kennedy Idea Propulsion Laboratory (“KIPL”) comes into existence. I’ll work out all of the details, probably in collaboration with many others.

As I said, I expect that this “passion project” will become the vehicle that I’ll be putting most of my time into in about 3 – 5 years. Right now, it’s just me. I’ll put my custom consulting projects (watch for more details soon on Legal Innovation as a Service, which will be a separate thing), research, education writing and projects, advisory board work, access to justice, and similar efforts under the KIPL umbrella. And probably a few more surprises. I want it to be as open and free-flowing as my own interests are.

As I learned from my conversation with Dave Gray, there are plenty of details to work out.

  • Will it be for-profit or not-for-profit? It seems so much easier now to be a simple for-profit entity, but I need to learn if I then making it very difficult later to turn into a non-profit.
  • Do I bootstrap this, as in my inclination, or investigate interest in funding, sponsorship and investment?
  • Do I stay completely independent or do I discuss affiliation with law firms, universities, institutions, legal vendors or others?
  • And much more.

A hat tip, as always, to Matt Homann, who will recognize a little bit of LexThink in this.

And, with that, the Kennedy Idea Propulsion Center is born. Your comments are welcomed. I’ve also put up a survey with questions where you can provide me with a little feedback.


[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]

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