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June 28, 2006

When Creativity Takes a Holiday

One of the reasons lawyers aren’t a more innovative bunch is that we spend so much time working in our businesses, that we don’t have time to work on them.  Does this sound familiar

When pressure's intense, creativity is one of the first casualties. Fear of producing still more work, fear of censure and fear of losing face foster cultures that are risk-averse; together with an attitude that protecting your butt always takes precedence. People become too afraid—or too tired—to do more than stick with what they know and what's worked before. You can say goodbye to any possibility of outdistancing the competition through innovation.

Besides, in today's most typical culture, internal competition is more intense as job cuts proliferate and promotion prospects diminish. No one can afford to make mistakes. Mistakes cost results and time; they undermine your credibility; they're noted by those who control promotion, political influence and employment itself. Why risk any of these to back some unproven idea? "Making the numbers" gets you a pat on the back—more or less however you do it.

Time is already in such short supply in companies like that no one dares use any on innovation. They all go instead for the quick, obvious answer; the "done it before a thousand times" answer; the quick-fix. That new idea may be a winner—sometime in the future. But who looks that far ahead, when getting through the rest of today looks uncertain enough? Unless it comes with one of these adjectives attached—instant, quicker, simpler, cheaper, fail-safe—or fits the "get it done and move one" fashionable attitude, dump it right away.

I’m working on a presentation right now, with the working title “Being a More Creative Lawyer,” that I’ll share here online when the first draft is done.  I’m having a tremendous time merging my thoughts on creativity and Idea Surplus Disorder(tm) with my new, still developing presentation style.  I’ll have more soon. 


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