Litigator Creativity and Problem Solving


Litigator Creativity and Problem Solving



Jonah Lehrer (How We Decide, and now Imagine) has established himself, along with Daniel Kahneman (Thinking Fast and Slow), Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers, Blink, Tipping Point), Daniel Pink (Drive, A Whole New Mind) and others, in the world of popularized meta-synthesis of cognitive psychology and neuroscience.


Imagine by Jonah Lehrer

Imagine by Jonah Lehrer 



Lehrer has an uncannily ability to pull together data from academia, business and the arts to provide insights helpful to negotiating life on an everyday basis.


In his new book Imagine, Lehrer examines creativity and problem solving, and covers ground from the innovation of the Swiffer and Post-It Notes, to Bob Dylan's evolution of free verse rock in "Like a Rolling Stone," to Shakespeare's opportunity to come into his own in Elizabethan England.


Litigation Requires Creativity


Litigation is not a science--it's an art requiring the ability to solve puzzles of various kinds and think outside the box. Wouldn't every attorney like to enhance his/her ability to find creative solutions to litigation problems?


Try to solve these "simple" puzzles (answers at end of newsletter):


1. Rearrange the letters n-e-w-d-o-o-r to make one word.


2. Take the words "age," "mile" and "sand" and think of a single word that can form a compound word or phrase with each of the three.


Hint: "Think" outside the box. 


But, how do you improve your ability to think outside the box and have these "aha" moments more frequently?


The Creative Process


Lehrer elaborates what I think of as a map of the creative process.  


Overall, the creative process involves hitting bottom with frustration, letting go to allow for insight, and grit to take the insight to completion. 




The first phase in the process involves the frustration of getting stuck. The mind tries to solve a problem and exhausts all known options. The experience may make you feel like a mouse going down every path in the maze hoping to find the cheese and coming up empty each time. Often, a long time goes by staring at the paper or computer screen before you are willing to admit you have hit bottom and have no answers.  The challenge in the frustration phase is recognizing defeat, and most of us do not want to admit defeat.


Time Out for Letting Go


The second phase in the process involves turning the problem over to your alpha waves.


Some people can "access" the door to entry into this state by taking a hot shower or taking a nature walk. Others have discovered that there is more than a catch phrase in saying, "I'll sleep on it." I have always been amazed that if I get stuck on a crossword puzzle before going to bed, I will often be able to wake up and solve it in the morning. In a very real sense, dreaming, not merely resting, allows the mind the permission to fantasize and get outside the box.


Back in the Saddle with True Grit


The Third Phase starts after the outside the box insight occurs.


This phase requires the "grit" to put in the time and effort to work with the insight and make the solution real.  



Do you have the entire creative toolbox?  


Some people are more on the OCD-ish side, and their strong skill set is in the details and deadlines, while some people are more on the ADD-ish side, and their strong skill is the generation of ideas.  


If you are on the OCD-ish side, you are probably going to have problems in the letting go part of the creative process. You may have a hard time with "fantasizing" and other "time wasting" activities. You will be inclined to pound away relentlessly, be very hard on yourself, and resist taking 'time out.'


If you are on the ADD-ish side, you are probably capable of generating new ideas in volume, but have difficulty actually putting in the grit for mastery of the solution. You have big eyes, and put more on your creative plate than you could ever digest. You would like to delegate your ideas for others to work on--if you could only remember to do it. You rely on others to remind you of deadlines and keep you organized.


Enhancing Creativity


To enhance your creative ability, identify your strengths and weaknesses for the three phases of the creative process.


Do you need to develop greater self-awareness of the point at which you hit the wall of no answers?


Do you need to develop your willingness to de-focus your attention and let go?


Do you need to develop your ability to take an idea to completion?


Pick up Jonah Lehrer's Imagine. I think you'll enjoy it.



Puzzle Answers


1. Rearrange the letters n-e-w-d-o-o-r to make one word.

The answer is "one word."


2. Take the words "age," "mile" and "sand" and think of a single word that can form a compound word or phrase with each of the three.

The answer is "stone": forming stone-age, mile-stone and sand-stone.