Gerry Riskin just recommended that we all read “legendary Merrilyn Astin Tarlton’s new blog.”  Merrilyn’s blog is named Blank Piece Of Paper and a box of crayons. Gerry’s recommendation is all I need, so I immediately took a look.  Blank Piece of Paper is very impressive.  I just smiled when I read Merrilyn’s entry “How DARE he?” in which she writes about some research presented by innovation expert Eric Mankin.  After much research, Mankin has concluded that “law firms may be some of the least innovative organizations in the US economy.”  There’s a shocker.

After looking (with tongue firmly planted in her cheek) at some claimed innovations by law firms, Tarlton writes:

No, Mankin’s right.  Innovation is hard to do in a law firm. . . .or a bar association. . . or a legal department.  Virtually anywhere that lawyers hang out in numbers.  It doesn’t make them bad.  Just hard to move.

Just as David Maister’s (of ALL people!!) remarks about law firms being impossible to manage stirred discussion and stress, so will Mankin’s thoughts – hopefully – serve as food for thought and fuel for change.  Regardless of how long it takes to make it happen.

What do you think?  Is it possible to “think differently” in a law firm?

I’d like to think so, but I’m one of those creatures who likes to have some evidence to support my conclusions.  And frankly, that evidence is hard to come by.

Having said that, I don’t believe that the past must be prologue to the future.  I think the business case for “thinking differently” and really innovating is getting stronger by the day.  Read books like The World Is Flat and it is impossible to conclude that the world as we know it is changing daily and leaps and bounds (if not more) and that innovation and creativity will be necessary simply to survive in this new, ever changing world.  Tom Peters has a favorite slide in which he quotes General Eric Shinseki, former Chief of Staff of the US Army: “If you don’t like change, you’ll like irrelevance even less.”  Amen, General.