Law Practice Today | January 2014 | The Innovation Issue
January 2014 | The Innovation Issue
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Turning "Creative Differences" Into Your Greatest Strengths

By David B. Goldstein

 

Creativity isn’t only needed in marketing. With rapid changes in the practice of law and how legal services are delivered, we all face unprecedented challenges in our work. In order to adapt and compete it’s necessary for everyone to be creative. For your firms to innovate, adapt, and thrive, it’s essential to establish a creative culture.

The first step to fostering a creative environment is to understand that just as there isn’t a single type of attorney personality, there also isn’t a single creative personality—and we all can be creative in our own way using our unique style.  

With awareness of creative styles, you can encourage a creative culture and recognize that the natural “creative differences” among your colleagues can actually become the greatest strengths in your practice. Being creative starts through knowing about yourself. By answering just four questions, you can begin to learn about your own creative style and those around you. These questions are based on Myers-Briggs, the most popular personality type indicator, and provide a brief introduction or refresh, however, it’s recommended to take a full assessment with a trained professional.

Your Best Creative Environment

The first question is: Where do you get your energy? Introverts tend to recharge by being alone while extraverts tend to recharge by being around people. We all gain some energy from both so consider which one you prefer most of the time? It’s like jumping into cold water—very energizing at first but quickly becomes tiring. Introverts may be energized when they arrive at a large party but soon become tired, while extraverts may say they want “alone time” but after a short while, they start to reach out to others.

Whether you’re an introvert or an extravert, there is a difference in what environment you feel most creative and produce your best ideas?  We attempt to make creative environments by arranging our desks in open floor plans and we think creativity involves brainstorming—and these may be just what an extravert needs as they prefer to engage with people and objects around them. However, this can be draining and discouraging to introverts who may generate their best work with some privacy and through reflecting. Like an attorney who arranges for flexible evening hours, since his most creative time comes after other colleagues had left the office.  Accommodating both styles can double your efforts. This can be achieved by allowing for choices with open space that include rooms for privacy and also pre-announcing brainstorming topics, so both extraverts and introverts have conditions to best contribute.

Inside or Outside the Box?

While the difference between introversion and extraversion are trending topics, the next question has even more impact on our creative style. It involves how we prefer to gather information, and although we all see things in our own ways—we all prefer one method over the other.

Do you prefer to look for the details of what is practical as a sensing type (i.e. using your five senses: what you see, touch, taste, hear or smell) or do you prefer to look at generalities and consider theories as an intuitive type (your sixth sense)? All creativity isn’t outside the box—a lot of creativity happens inside the box where small incremental improvements can have large impacts. Much in law involves a review of details, and while all personalities can do this—sensors tend to focus on the specifics of today to solve concrete and immediate problems. The intuitives, on the other hand, prefer to be more conceptual, often thought of as out of the box, and solve anticipated problems.

Without understanding these differences, when sitting together in a meeting, these two personalities can be worlds apart. Friction can develop between sensors who prefer what is practical today versus intuitives who prefer what is possible tomorrow. While this can appear as creative differences, a culture that understands and appreciates both perceptions has the opportunity to benefit from both—avoiding blind spots and group think.   

Continuing along with this dichotomy, creative ideas often start with an “aha” moment.  We don’t know how they originate in our brain and we all have them at times, but we perceive them differently based on our personality. The intuitives often have learned to trust these flashes and depend on them, while the sensors tend to dismiss them unless they are based on facts they could verify. Connecting dissimilar dots can lead to great innovations, but the trouble comes in when intuitives connect dots that should never be connected. They are reminded to check facts and due diligence. On the other hand, sensors tend to dismiss ideas that can’t be immediately proven and it’s suggested that they wait and see—because some valuable ideas will have grounding that may come later (did you know exactly all the ways you would use your smartphone when you bought it?).

Making Decisions

The third question for determining our creative style has to do with how we make decisions on the information we gathered. Do you prefer to consider what is logical and fair? (A “thinking type.”) Or do you consider foremost how your decision will affect people and promote harmony? (A “feeling type.”) We all think and feel and consider both, but most often use one over the other to make our decisions. A recent study showed a higher percentage of attorneys are thinking types than the general population. Thinking types should remember that contrary to what we are often told—creativity doesn’t have to be personal. Creativity is about being your authentic self—and being yourself if you are a thinking type may not involve an outpouring of emotions as some have come to believe. Creativity can certainly involve seeking universal truths and improving systems from an arm’s reach away. If you happen to be a feeling-type attorney, then creativity may be personal as you tend to focus on your personal values.  If this is the case, it’s important to know you are sometimes swimming upstream. However, feeling types bring something different to the table in the form of empathy and consideration of how other people, such as our partners and clients, may react to new ideas.

Getting Unblocked

The final question involves the image we present. Do you project an image and create an environment that is structured, ordered and punctual? (A “judging type.”) Or do you project an image and create an environment that is spontaneous, scattered, and doing things in your own time? (A “perceiving type.”) Judging types tend to like to have a decision settled, and once closure is reached, even good new information can be seen as an intrusion. Perceiving types tend to make decisions, but keep things open as they continue to gather information.

Understanding this difference helps us to get unblocked. If you’re preference is judging, you may get stuck from closing up too early. Try opening the window to new experiences, read something that you think will be irrelevant, or talk with someone that you think you have nothing in common with since something unexpected may help you get unstuck. While opening up to new information is helpful for judging types, it’s the wrong remedy if you’re a perceiving type. These people get stuck because they have too much information, and need to close the window and make a “tentative” decision in order to go forward. Once they get started, one idea leads to the next.

The creative process can be messy and chaotic and through the fog, the judging types help to stay on course to reach a goal, while the perceiving types best contribute by responding to new opportunities. Understanding and appreciating these differences can help teams be more collaborative, open up to new ideas, and be creative without driving each other away.

Know Yourself to Gain Courage to Take Risks

Remember that these are only our preferences and we are all capable of using our non-preferences, however, our best work comes through what we like to do. While we tend to gravitate toward people similar to ourselves, it’s unlikely that our colleagues, staff or clients will have the same personality as we do—and it’s unlikely that we are creative in the same ways as the people around us. For creativity to thrive we value diversity, however, what is often overlooked is diversity in personality type. Focusing on one mode of being creative is frustrating to the others and discourages their contributions. We can develop a creative environment by allowing for each creative type to thrive and contribute in their own ways.

This is just an introduction of what can be understood about our personality types and our creative style.  Creativity is the front end of innovation and involves doing something new and taking some risks and when we know ourselves we can have the confidence to be ourselves to try something new. When we know our colleagues we can have understanding of their strengths that are different than our own.

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About the Author

David B. Goldstein is the Author of  “Creative You: Using Your Personality Type to Thrive”  and can be reached at: www.davidbgoldstein.com

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Amy Drushal, Trenam Kemker

Chase Edwards, Paul M. Hebert Law School, Louisiana State University

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Richard Goldstein, Goldstein Patent Law

Katy Goshtasbi, KG Consulting Group Inc, d/b/a Puris Image

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Alan Craig Haston, The Haston Law Firm, P.C.

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William Henslee, Florida A&M University College of Law

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