Creativity and Failure

In the last several weeks, I encountered several instances of the same theme:  Creativity Requires Failure. In a recent lecture, legal writing consultant Gary Kinder argued that creative writing is only possible when you set aside your left brain's logical and structured tendencies and allow your right brain to expound. If the left brain jumps in to criticize, it interrupts the flow of ideas. Only through free flowing ideas can one produce greatness.

In a TED presentation, creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson contends creativity can only develop if humans are allowed to regularly fail. (video below) Our educational system, he argues, stymies creative development by judging children's abilities by their performance in math and science, rather than art, music, and dance. Robinson believes the problems facing humanity are so profound as to be solvable only though the next generation's creativity, which we are tasked with nurturing today.

Legal work, of course, allows for very few errors. Same for automobile manufacturing. Hence lawyers' attention to detail and the "error proofing" techniques of automobile manufacturers. For example, Toyota uses many techniques to ensure workers exactingly follow standard workflow.

On the other hand, creativity is essential to good lawyering. Robinson defines creativity as original thoughts that add value. At our best, that's what lawyers do.

Is there a way to ensure error-free work, as well as highly creative-high value work? One solution is to encourage risk taking and boundary stretching within the safety of the office, but apply quality measures before allowing anything to leave the office, either to the client or the court.

D. Mark Jackson

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