Nancy Myrland* In the legal profession, we tend to sit back and wait to innovate or do something we think we should be doing until we see another firm or another lawyer do it. We want to know that it looks okay.
Is It Safe?
We want to make sure it’s safe out there. We want to make sure that someone else has launched a podcast, has created video or livestreamed, or we want to make sure that someone else has invested in a certain community project. Then, when we find out they have, we think we have to do the same, because, well, we should be there, too.
Unfortunately, what that often creates is a me-too approach that makes us look just like the other sponsoring firms and organizations, versus standing out.
Summer of Soul…What?!
The reason I’m thinking about this now, and you might think this is odd, is because I have seen the movie Summer of Soul, (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) twice this Summer. If you haven’t seen it, you really should. I saw it in the theater, then told my husband, John, about it, so we found it on Hulu so we could watch it together.
Summer of Soul is about The Harlem Cultural Festival in 1969. It was hosted in Harlem over 6 weekends at the same time as Woodstock, but not too many outside of that area heard about it on the news because it wasn’t widely reported like Woodstock. Video footage has been stored in the basement of the videographer for FIFTY years because nobody was interested in purchasing it at that time. It is only now seeing the light of day…or the light of the big screen.
What Can We Learn From This Sly Stone Comment At The Festival?
You will love the movie because of the talent and the names you will see and hear. If you are anything like me, you will have a hard time sitting still in your seat.
One of the big names was Sly Stone, who was shown on stage a few times during the movie. At one point, he told everyone in the crowd to go ahead and start singing along, or maybe it was clapping. I don’t remember, which I should since I’ve seen it twice. In fact, I should know the whole thing by heart, shouldn’t I?
Sly was basically saying, come on, go ahead, get involved. Let yourself go and join in with me.
Don’t Wait For Your Neighbor
His exact quote (yes, I did pull out my phone and type this out immediately in Google Keep) was:
“Don’t be waiting for approval from your neighbor because your neighbor might be waiting for you.”
This resonated with me because I serve a profession that has, historically, waited for its neighbor to do something first. That is improving, but it continues to be a driver of a lot of movement, change, and improvement to this day.
We are a profession that likes to see precedent and safety. I understand that, but I would like to talk to you about not waiting for your neighbor in order to experience true innovation and progress.
What If? What If? What If?
Instead of using your neighbors’ or your competitors’ actions as the impetus to safely start a project or make change, what can happen when you wait for your neighbor is that you can hold your firm back. This is true on different levels.
It is true because you wait to do things. You wait to innovate because you are waiting for someone else to do it first, when really, what might be happening is that they might be waiting for you to do it, too.
So, what happens? It never gets done. Nobody starts because everybody is afraid to start.
It might also be true because there might be something you would really like to get involved in because it somehow speaks to you. It might feel consistent with your brand, your personal brand, the position you wish to stake out in the marketplace, but you are afraid to do it because it seems a little too out there, or a little too assertive.
Inside, your overly cautious voice asks:
- “What if I look silly?”
- “What if my voice sounds bad on this recording?”
- “What if I don’t use perfect words?”
- “What if the firm ends up being second to market with this idea?”
- “What if they don’t like our new vision statement?”
- “What if?”
- “What if?”
- “What if?”
You can “what if” yourself and your firm until it’s too late, until one day you regret it because you have never gone ahead and gotten involved or innovated like you knew you could if you had just stepped forward.
Maybe Your Neighbor Needs You To Go Ahead
When you think about it, not waiting for your neighbor can also mean that your friendly neighbor might need a boost in confidence.
It might mean that someone else in the industry or the profession is just waiting for someone else like you to lend a hand and say:
- “What do you think?”
- “How about you?”
- “I’d love to hear what you think about this.”
You have the ability to help them feel comfortable stepping up, or helping them gain the confidence they need.
Be Like Sly. Don’t Wait To Innovate.
So, I urge you to be like Sly.
Don’t wait for approval from your neighbor because, for whatever reason, your neighbor might be waiting for you.
Let me know what you think about Sly’s quote and if this makes sense to you, to your firm, and to the profession.
No more what-ifs. Do your due diligence, then step forward and lead.
Innovate while you can so that your clients are served to the best of your ability. Remember, it is about them, not about you and your fear of innovation.
Don’t wait for your neighbor because your neighbor might be waiting for you.