Design Thinking at CLOC - Part I

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Reflecting on the past few days at the conference, this CLOC-goer would argue that the best session was “Design Sprint: Innovation...Fast!” 

From the start this presentation / immersion into design thinking felt different. Via their micro-lecture on the topic, Presenters Jeff Marple, and Douglas Ferguson, quickly established a Sprint foundation for those audience members unfamiliar with design thinking.

...design thinking is a method long used by the tech industry

For readers not versed in the concept, design thinking is a method long used by the tech industry to quickly identify a goal for a team, solicit a large quantity of ideas about the goal, empathize with and gain insights from key stakeholders about the goal, and systematically vet the ideas in a “trust-tree”, no judgement environment.

The obligatory homage to Jake Knapp was covered early in the proceedings with a nod to his design thinking bestseller “Sprint”. While many Design Sprints take five days to complete, Jeff and Doug were ambitiously endeavoring to take us through a portion of the process in only 50 minutes. Doug and Jeff acknowledged these constraints indicating that their 5 day, devices down (i.e.. No phones) sprints, typically started at 10am and finished at about 4 or 4:30. This allows team members time before and after to address job demands.

Choosing a legal-ops challenge from a large disparate group of individuals was simplified by applying a “1-2-4-8-All” framework.

When posed with the question “What important Legal Operations challenge should we focus on today?” audience members were tasked with generating a list of responses on their own. After a couple minutes individuals were paired up into groups of two and asked to vet the list of ideas and agree on one. Groups of two were then merged into groups of four to conduct the same process and then groups of four merged into groups of 8 for a final vetting to arrive at their one legal-ops challenge.

I was presently surprised when the appointed scribe for my group of eight listed our idea in the form of a “How might we…” statement.

I was not surprised when I saw that his name tag read Robert Taylor, VP & Sr. Corporate Counsel of Liberty Mutual Insurance. The same Liberty Mutual recently anointed Legal Operations Team of The Year by the ACC. “How might we…” statements help team members reframe challenges as opportunities, instead of immediately jumping to solutions.

Each group of eight communicated their one challenge to Doug who listed them on a flip-chart. There were approximately eight groups of eight so we ended up with a list of  challenges that were put to a show of hands vote. In the very close, Florida-esque polling, the winning legal-ops challenge was determined to be some iteration of:

How can the legal department show value to the company?

Once the challenge was established we were asked to ponder and come up with one idea that would address the challenge. We were instructed to record our one idea on an Idea Card.

Queue the music. We then conducted five rounds of idea card exchange wherein the 60 or 70 session attendees walked around while music played, trading the idea cards.

The process anonymized the source of the idea while exposing it to others scrutiny. After each round, each individual would have a different card. We’d read the idea on the card we had and ranked, on a scale of 1 to 5, how good we considered the idea, 5 being a great idea. After five rounds we were asked to calculate the total score for the idea card we had.

Doug and Jeff then polled the audience “Does anyone have a 25 idea?”, 25 being the maximum score an idea could receive. We didn’t have a 25 idea, or a 24 idea. Our judgmental group didn’t even have a 23 idea. We did however have a 22. Doug and Jeff listed the 22 idea along with those ideas scoring 21, 20 & 19. With the highest ranked ideas listed it was time for the next step in the design sprint, but alas our 50 minutes was up!

Doug and Jeff wrapped the session up by indicating they would be posting the next steps for our mini design sprint and I’m vigilantly scanning the CLOC.org site and their Linked-In pages for the finale. How can the legal department show value to the company? , or whatever your challenge may be, the design sprint approach is applicable to the big issues you and your team are facing.

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Kevin Bielawski is Director of Legal Project Management & Strategic Pricing at law firm Husch Blackwell

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