August 10, 2011
Teaching Lawyers to Innovate
I have been traveling around the country for the last couple weeks (for both work and pleasure), and will be home just in time for orientation, which starts on Monday for the University of North Dakota. As I prepare for the coming year, I have been looking for interesting articles and ideas to help provide a more holistic educational experience.
To that end, The Economist has an interesting article about a study called “The Innovator’s DNA”, co-written by Clay Christensen, Jeff Dyer and Hal Gregersen. The study find "five habits of mind that characterise disruptive innovators: associating, questioning, observing, networking and experimenting. Innovators excel at connecting seemingly unconnected things."
The question is posed: can we teach people to be innovators? And can we teach lawyers to be innovators? The Economist story ends this way:
For all their insistence that innovation can be learned, Mr Christensen and co produce a lot of evidence that the disruptive sort requires genius. Nearly all the world’s most innovative companies are run by megaminds who set themselves hubristic goals such as “putting a ding in the universe” (Steve Jobs). During Mr Jobs’s first tenure at Apple, the company’s innovation premium was 37%. In 1985-98, when Mr Jobs was elsewhere, the premium fell to minus 30%. Now that Mr Jobs is back, the premium has risen to 52%. The innovator’s DNA is rare, alas. And unlike Mr Jobs’s products, it is impossible to clone.
Obviously, we can't teach every one of our students to be the most innovative lawyers any more than every CEO can be Steve Jobs. But it doesn't mean we can't try, right?