Light-bulb Innovation compared to trial-and-error emergence

Popularizers of innovation in law department practices love to portray a new idea as popping full-borne, Venus-like from a general counsel’s brow. “And on the first day,” spake Howard Rudge of DuPont, “let’s drastically cut the number of law firms we use!”

I smile at this apocrypha. Most change in law departments is better described as “emergent.” Over time, a number of people, in fits and starts, shape and re-shape a set of practices that later on crystallize into an innovation. The emergence of a new idea usually involves a vendor, or a consultant, or people from the client side. It relies on trial and a lot of error. (See my post of today on sources of innovation in law departments.)

Giving birth may be an analog for the eureka moment of innovation. But raising a child more accurately fits innovation’s emergent properties.

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