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More new thinking on innovation in legal departments

To implement a new idea is the essence of innovation (See my post of Oct. 4, 2009: innovation defined.). That post and this one survey what I have written generally about innovation in law departments since my first metapost on innovation in late 2005. It does not collect specific instances of activities described as innovative nor reprise new ideas from law firms. Neither does it continue the attack on the promiscuous use of the term (See my post of June 11, 2008: over-use of the term innovative; and Dec. 17, 2007: dilution of the term.).

Constraints on innovation exist, and not simply tight budgets. One is a psychological predisposition of lawyers to avoid risks (See my post of Aug. 24, 2008: lawyers and risk averse behavior with 11 references.). Some feel that another constraint is, oddly enough, disciplined process methodologies (See my post of Jan. 20, 2007: Six Sigma throttles new ideas.). A third constraint is the pace of change a legal department can absorb (See my post of Dec. 17, 2007: outstanding article on innovation; and Feb. 6, 2007: an innovation pyramid.). Another constraint results from ineptitude in change management. To alter how things are done, to move from creation to innovation, often calls upon the collection of precepts referred to as “change management” (See my post of Dec. 21, 2008: change management with 16 references cited.).

How innovation spreads from law department to law department fascinates me, although nowhere have I found a study of it. In addition to general counsel reading about new methods and talking to people in their network, many other seeds of ideas exist (See my post of June 25, 2007: how innovation happens in law departments; June 25, 2007: ways ideas spread; Dec. 3, 2007: not all general counsel regard their cherished ideas as open source; Oct. 22, 2006: patents on innovations of legal departments; and June 15, 2006: larger law departments are more managerially innovative.).

Techniques to tease out new, practical ideas abound (See my post of Feb. 5, 2009: ergonomics of innovation; Dec. 31, 2008: systematic inventive thinking; Feb. 24, 2009: three methods to collect good new ideas; Feb. 14, 2009: combine familiar ideas into new approaches; July 17, 2009: host innovation tournaments; April 2, 2009: psychometric test of innovativeness; Jan. 21, 2008: fund internal idea initiatives; and May 1, 2006: internal think tank.). Note that innovation also includes abandonment of practices (See my post of April 30, 2006: fresh thinkers drop some activities.). One set of methods to accelerate the creative side of innovation is brainstorming (See my post of Dec. 31, 2008: brainstorming with 5 references.). Benchmarking can also spur innovation.

I urge general counsel to do basics well, and keep improving them, rather than grab at the next shiny idea (See my post of Feb. 15, 2009: improve basics before leaping to novelty; Nov. 6, 2007: focus on execution more than innovation; July 16, 2009: misguided emphasis on creative over effective ideas; and Jan. 3, 2008: productivity is more important than novelty.).

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