Bring Your Creativity To Work | Husch Blackwell LLP

the 2022 CLOC Global Institute was once again a tremendous opportunity to learn about the evolution of Legal Operations, network with peers and vendors, and listen to real-world case studies of how teams are moving the needle in their organizations in every sector of the legal ecosystem. Speakers at CLOC typically focus on metrics and data driving change and transformation within the industry. This year the CLOC leadership was also very intentional about highlighting the need for Creativity at work. From the two keynote sessions that kicked off the conference to Mary O’Carroll and Jason Barnwell’s sessions to the closing conversation on Thursday, the theme of creativity was central to the discussion.

Why focus on creativity now? Legal operations professionals are very adept at incremental improvements, increasing efficiency, streamlining processes, automating routine workflows, etc. However, to keep up with the pace of change in our organizations, to truly accelerate how our businesses operate, and to discover new ways to make the lives of our stakeholders and customers better, what the legal industry needs now is re-imagining how to work. is done. COVID was one of the sparks that lit this fire. Answering this call requires professionals to take risks and bring their creativity to work.

In his book Balancing Acts, Daniel Lamarre, the Vice Chairman of Cirque du Soleil, defines creativity as “the ability to make or otherwise bring into existence something new, whether a new solution to a problem, a new method or device, or a new artistic object or form. ” I like that definition because taking a risk to try something new could be as simple as intentionally listening more effectively, bringing more empathy to work situations, or experimenting with a hypothesis on a small scale to learn whether the way we have always done something is really the best approach. As professionals we tend to think of creativity as an artistic form that exists within the realm of Marketing, instead of as a framework of thinking that is useful when modeling numbers, writing code, reality testing an idea or re-engineering a process. The speakers at CLOC this year challenged that mindset and encouraged all of us to develop our creative minds and bring them to work – whether at home or at the office.

Robert Fogarty from dear world, hosted the first and last keynote sessions and brought into focus the power of storytelling. Robert has interviewed thousands of people from across the globe and captured a signature event in their life through succinct messaging and photography. At our tables in the Grand Ballroom, we each quickly walked through the core process of getting our ideas on paper, focusing on a single event, writing a few points to describe the journey and an insight about ourselves, and then sharing this story with a partner at the table. Robert’s team photographed dozens of attendees and shared four of their stories from the stage, each a powerful moment in their own lives and now a memorable one in ours.

Honestly, this exercise made a lot of folks uncomfortable. The attempt was to break the ice and be vulnerable so that people could connect quickly, after being isolated during the pandemic. At tables where in-house legal operations teams were meeting for the first time since early 2020, it was incredibly bonding. For those of us who had just met the person next to us, it was a little scary. I shared my journey into cycling to cope with the stress of supporting my wife during cancer treatment. Only to realize, after taking a similar vulnerable step, that I had gained a new family and friends who could support me on my path. Robert’s team took my photograph with the words, Your Life Has Just Begun, on my arms.

Creativity requires a safe place where people can be vulnerable and learn from each other’s ideas, and sometimes from failure. When Daniel Lamarre first joined the Cirque du Soleil his boss assigned him a clown to interrupt and bring levity to his meetings because he was so serious (compared to the circus). Daniel shares this story because one of the best ways to create safety is through personal connection and laughter. As the “numbers guy” in the room sharing the spreadsheet over Teams, I’m usually the serious one. What a difference it makes when you take the time to get to know your team and clients and provide space to dream out loud together. Robert’s last storyteller came and sat down at our table and was hugged by a colleague and friend who understood how hard it is to share an emotion-filled moment, especially in front of a huge crowd.

on wednesday Erik Wahl took the stage and modeled what creativity could look like, but also challenged all of us to take calculated risks at work. Erik is a graffiti artist, speed painter, author of the book Unthink, and consultant who helps professionals create stories and value behind the numbers that often guide their work. His focus on him in the keynote was on risk taking. After spending a few minutes painting an incredible portrait of John Lennon, Erik invited someone from the audience on stage to presumably try their best at painting the next canvas. Not one volunteered. So, Erik called on a gentleman who was late to the session and was standing up next to a table near the front of the room. (Note to self: Never show up late to a CLOC Keynote.) Erik offered this man the option to choose someone else. He didn’t skip a beat. From the reaction of her peers to her, the woman who walked up on stage was not a painter. She was an individual who was open to taking the risk, to learn something new and possibly surprise herself in the process. We were all dumbfounded when Erik handed her the painting of John Lennon as her reward for being open to coming up on stage.

There is a local, self-taught painter in Holt, Missouri who offers classes every couple of weeks where people in the community can come and walk through how to paint the scene she has chosen for the evening. I have completed four of these paintings, not because I aspire to become a visual artist. I attend her sessions from her because it helps me see the world differently. When I am painting, I learn about the various dimensions of a solution, how to mix the components, and how to make things flow together in a way that heightens the visual experience. I learn how to adjust when things don’t go as planned and to recognize that some of those mistakes lead to better outcomes. I also learn to value my own creativity and recognize the difference between inspiration and perfection. The first time I attended a class, I walked out and left my painting on the table, because it was so stressful to try to create art that didn’t look anything like the original. Now I hang my paintings on the wall in my home because I have learned to appreciate what is beautiful about the way I designed the piece and how I took it in a different direction. Below is one of the four paintings from this class.

On Thursday, Mary O’Carroll hosted a session on becoming more strategic at work. She reinforced the themes that incremental improvements are not enough. What our companies need instead is for legal operations to consider solutions that accelerate the whole business, not just the performance of the law department. She gave an example of a peer at another company who took a concept she was going to apply to a process in the law department and figured out that it would make an even bigger difference if her company de ella implemented the solution on a grander scale. Likewise, Jason Barnwell articulated in his workflow session how testing his hypotheses of him on a small scale within Microsoft enables him to learn how stakeholders react to the introduction of a new workflow. This feedback provides valuable insights into how to refine the solution, so that the intended outcome is achieved. Jason also moderated the closing session and prompted the other panelists to talk about situations where they moved beyond rhetoric and started acting differently in negotiations and change management situations and where they would like to see the industry go next.

During the conference there were several speakers who suggested that creativity was akin to moments of inspiration. The job of leaders was to create a safe space to pursue an idea by providing some latitude in time allocation or possibly a little funding. This is certainly one of the ways creativity shows up at work. I would also suggest that creativity is a discipline and process that should be conducted regularly, even if the goal is to develop the beginner’s mind or expand the use of the right side of our brain.

Earlier this year I was providing feedback on a deck for one of our consultants who was preparing for a professional development session. She could tell by my approach to feedback, that I was someone who used both sides of my brain. I have found it to be true that engaging in creative activities – whether that is observing art in a gallery or drawing, listening to a symphony or performing music, attending a ballet or choreographing movement, writing poetry or prose or watching the Cirque du Soleil perform – changes the way I perceive the world and approach solutions at work. I enjoy the creative exercise for its own sake, but also recognize that it is useful at work. Bringing your creativity to work takes perseverance, because not everyone will appreciate the power of design and out of the box thinking.

Recently, I finished writing a series of English sonnets to remember the experience and feeling of backpacking through Scotland when I was 19 years old. I write poetry to capture the moment, because moments matter in both my personal and professional life. A few years ago my larger team did a deep dive into the importance of certain moments in a business relationship using Chip and Dan Heath’s book, The Power of Moments as a guide. If I can learn to see the richness of the moment, I can hopefully learn to provide a more authentic and compelling experience for my clients. I’ll close with one of the Sonnets from my poem, The Song of the Highlands.

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