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Four uncommon ways to harvest ideas for management improvements

Most general counsel sharpen their management tools from reading about a technique that strikes them as worthwhile, or from hearing about one at a conference or meeting. Some less common sources also supply new ideas.

You can ask your favorite law firms to critique how a major matter was handled by another firm (See my post of Feb. 25, 2010: post-mortem competitions by law firms.).

You can sponsor a contest. Jonah Lehrer, Imagine: How Creativity Works (Houghton Mifflin 2012) at 119-2-122, reminded me or this from his discussion of InnoCentive. InnoCentive started at Eli Lilly but was spun out. It provides a platform for companies to offer rewards for solutions to difficult problems. So too might a law department (See my post of April 29, 2011: Brazilian think tank sponsored a competition; Feb. 21, 2008: College of Law Practice Management InnovAction Award; Dec. 5, 2010: Financial Times innovation award to ITV; and Dec. 3, 2010: seven law departments and two focused initiatives recognized by the Financial Times.).

You can borrow from ideas in responses to RFPs (See my post of Oct. 1, 2005: the ethics of using good ideas in RFP responses; and July 15, 2011: RFPs that exploit good ideas and those that respect the proposers’ intellectual capital.).

You can set a goal for your staff to submit improvements, such as one idea per quarter (See my post of Dec. 21, 2008: try a method and report on it.).

You can learn about practices from the lawyers at companies you acquire or merge with. Likewise, you can debrief lawyers you hire from other law departments.