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7 “Poke the Box” Law Firm Lessons Adapted from Seth Godin

11 “Poke the Box” Law Firm Lessons Adapted from Seth Godin

Take the initiative and good things will happen.

Author Seth Godin took the title for his best-selling book, Poke the Box, from the true story of an uncle who built a sort of “busy box” for his son’s crib containing switches, lights and buzzers.

Poke one switch and a light turns on. Poke it twice and a buzzer sounds. For a young child not yet trained to worry about the potential consequences of every action, it was a busy box indeed.

For attorneys and law firm employees trained to examine every action they or their clients might take to ensure the least possible risk, the idea of “poking the box” or trying new approaches can seem foreign.

But in today’s ultra-competitive law firm market where top-tier firms are far outdistancing the rest of the field by focusing their efforts on client service and acting as business and legal consultants to their clients, now is the time to explore new ideas. It’s time to loosen the grip on some of the this-is-the-way-we’ve-always-done-things conservatism that traditionally rules in the legal world.

Here are seven points every attorney or law firm that’s stuck in a rut can benefit from understanding:

  1. We are naturally afraid of change, but without starting something you’ll always be stuck waiting for someone else to tell you to move.
  2. You don’t have to be a leader to initiate change. If you see something that isn’t working, change it. That can be as simple as bringing a can of WD-40 to the office to fix a noisy hinge, or as important as picking up the phone to talk to a client who hasn’t paid their bill to understand if they’re unhappy with the firm’s work. No need to wait for a requisition or permission from above. Take the initiative and fix what needs fixing.
  3. Don’t judge yourself by your failures. When we lionize famous people, it’s because we’re only remembering the successful things they did and not their ideas that failed. The best example: Oprah Winfrey, who had a history of failed shows, projects, and predictions but is well-respected by the market and society today. While it’s true that the more you do, the more you’re likely to fail, the opposite is also true. You can’t succeed if you don’t try.
  4. Tell your ego that the best way to get something out the door is to let other people take the credit. The win is in creating an environment for success, not in getting credit for it.
  5. Approach your work in a way that generates learning and interactions that are worth sharing. TEDx talks are a great example of how anyone is capable of poking the box. The original TED conference showcased scientific and literary giants, but when the TED team invited people all over the world to set up their own version of TED conferences, called TEDx, the events featured speakers from every line of work. Everyone has a TED talk in them.
  6. Great successes often get their start from great failure. Starbucks is a great example. The original Starbucks didn’t sell coffee, just beans, tea leaves and herbs. Though the founder, Jerry Baldwin, wasn’t initially successful, someone else working off his idea created the store format that we know today. If Mr. Baldwin hadn’t gotten things started with the flawed first concept, we wouldn’t have the lattés we love today.
  7. If there’s no opportunity for success or growth (in other words, if you can’t fail) then it doesn’t count.

According to Mr. Godin, there are two mentalities that not only keep us from succeeding, but from even trying.

On one end of the spectrum is the “hypogo” group. These are the hesitaters, always waiting for a better time, or more research, or a kinder audience. They let fear keep them from making an impact.

On the opposite side is the “hypergo” group. These are the people who dream up big ideas but never initiate them. They think if they stay busy dreaming up the next big thing, they’re not responsible for the day-to-day work right in front of them.

While both groups may consider themselves total opposites, and even disdain the others’ approach, the result is the same for both. The real failure is in not trying.

Time to poke the box and make good things happen.

Adapted from a LexisNexis University blog post written by Margaret McDowell…

Margaret McDowell is a Design Tech Consultant who loves to create engaging training materials for adult learners using the latest tools. She currently works with the Performance Development team in the North American Research Solutions group. Margaret holds a BS degree in Education from Appalachian State University and an MEd in Instructional Design from Arizona State University.


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Contributing Writer
This bio page is used to publish submissions by contributing writers. We welcome contributions from the legal community and are especially keen for contributions from our customers. Please review previous submissions published here and the “About Us” section to get a sense for what topics work for this blog. All posts must be original content not published elsewhere for at least 30 days. To submit an idea for consideration, please email blsssocial@lexisnexis.com.