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Monday, August 05, 2019

DeStefano on "the Adjacent Possible"

Michele-DeStefano_cropLast week, one of the SSRN journal emails included a new piece by an old friend, Michele DeStefano (Miami, left) - Innovation: A New Key Discipline for Lawyers and Legal Education. From the abstract:

It begins by demonstrating that clients' call for innovation is really a call for transformation in service from their lawyers. It then explores why answering this call can be problematic for lawyers. It seeks to show that lawyers' professional identity, training, and temperament (along with extrinsic and intrinsic motivation) make it difficult for lawyers to adopt the collaborative, creative mindset and skillset of innovators. This chapter recommends that innovation be incorporated as a new key discipline at both the law school and executive education (continuing education) level because in the process of learning how to innovate, lawyers hone the mindset, skillset, and behaviors that clients desire. In support of this contention, it reveals that, as an added benefit, by honing the innovator's DNA, lawyers also grow into inclusive leaders our society needs us to be. The chapter concludes with some suggestions for lawyers to help them better collaborate towards innovation along with a pie-in-the-sky call to the legal universe to make innovation the new key discipline for practicing and aspiring lawyers.

This is music to my ears - because it's about the self-imposed limitations, for better or worse, that can be the result of the frames or presuppositions from which many lawyers (and law professors) see and make sense of the world (e.g., deliberately, logically, algorithmically, dispassionately, syllogistically). Michele's point here (and in her book Legal Upheaval: A Guide to Creativity, Collaboration, and Innovation in Law) is that kind of square-cornered thinking is just the beginning; clients will demand as well a collaborative and creative mindset in order to craft solutions to problems.

What was particularly delightful was finding Michele's incorporation of a coinage from Stuart Kauffman, M.D., theoretical biologist, and complexity researcher (University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, Santa Fe Institute, among other affiliations), about the "adjacent possible." I also recently came across Kauffman's work, and I've used it in the piece (title has changed but that's another blog post to come) from which I've been out-taking this month. The "adjacents possible" are the possible next states from the one in which we are in or which we are observing. Kauffman's point was to distinguish the adjacent possible in physics (or cybernetics) from that in a complex biological or economic system.  In a physics or computational system, all of the adjacents possible in either direction, all state changes, are predictable. But not so in biology (and I would add, in human thought). There, the move to the adjacent possible (the set of all possible next states), while not random, is not predictable. (I like this particular observation: the universe has constructed every possible stable atom, but not every possible protein.)

The connection to human creativity and innovation should be obvious.

More to come later.

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on August 5, 2019 at 09:37 AM in Article Spotlight, Lipshaw, Teaching Law | Permalink

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