I read The Power of Why because I heard it commented on the “hide and seek” pedagogy that is rampant in the education system today and the effect it is having on our development as individuals and as a society.
I am interested in that subject because I believe that aspect of our education system is impairing its capacity to cultivate reflective and analytical thinking skills in our post-secondary students. The consequences of that deficiency is then continuing through professional schools so that more of the individuals emerging from professional schools in the past 5-10 years seem to have less-honed analytical thinking skills than did those coming out 20 or more years ago. I was hoping this book might give me some insight into how widespread this issue is and provide a different perspective on it that might be usefully applied in the legal community to help fix the consequences.
It did that and more. In addition to exploring the effect of this aspect of our education system across our country, which was interesting enough on its own, it is interesting and informative in a whole bunch of other ways and it is fun to read! I found myself laughing out loud one minute, curious and motivated the next and then, in the next, reflecting on some of the ways that I approach problems and challenges in my personal and professional life that could use some improvement (to say it as kindly as I can!).
The book is about how curiosity, and specifically asking the right questions, is the surest route to innovation and success, personally and professionally. The interesting correlative factor though, is that curiosity, asking questions, and the experimentation that inevitably results, also lead to the (sometimes epic) failure that necessarily stands between us and our ultimate innovation and success. The book espouses that failure should be honoured, embraced, and even sought out, because it is the proper response to, and management of, failure that drives innovation and ultimately leads to transformation.
It is written as a string of stories about interesting people and companies doing wildly innovative things, failing, continuing to strive and ultimately transforming themselves by the liberal application of curiosity to the problem-solving process. Not the kind of curiosity that causes you to look for the quick answer; the kind that causes you to look for the next and best questions. The people and companies she talks about are familiar to us: Four Seasons, Roots, Lulu Lemon, the guy that invented the curved curtain rod, Prairie Girl (a former lawyer, by the way), and Canadian Tire. She even weaves in some tales of failure, discovery, and transformation from her own life. There really is something for everyone.
As many of you know, one of my pet peeves is being told what I need to do, but given no clue about how to do it. This book addresses that by providing suggestions and insights for how to foster curiosity and use it to jump-start innovation in your own context.
I believe that in law we have lost the plot on innovation (if we ever had it). We are steeped in the traditional way of doing things. We resist change. We hold firmly to precedent and the way things have been done before as containing the seeds of how things should be done in future. We fear and avoid failure of any magnitude at all costs. And we are drowning under the weight of that culture because many of our clients, certainly the most vocal among them, have embraced innovation in their businesses and their lives and are now expecting us to do the same.
I don’t have the answers to how we make the changes in our industry that will help us rise back above the waterline and catch up with the industries and clients that we serve, but I have a strong suspicion that if more of us found a way to cultivate our curiosity and embrace failure as a force that propels us forward, rather than looking upon it with dread and judgment, someone (or many someones) out there would come up with great ideas. It only makes sense that curiosity, asking questions, experimenting with different ideas, and, yes, failing repeatedly will be the route to discovering our future.
My suggestion to all of you is to read The Power of Why and buy 10 copies to give to your friends and colleagues. I’m pretty sure everyone will find something that resonates with them in this book.
Read any good books lately? Send me a review that could be relevant to lawyers and our community and I’ll post it.
Until next time!