Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Ability to Defer Judgment

I believe I have the ability to defer judgment.   My mind contains a wealth of notions.  I am constantly forming ideas about my environment and myself.   My instinct for research is in a state of permanent arousal.  I am constantly appraising the statements and behaviors of other people.  I think: What is the meaning of the statement?  What is the nature of the interpersonal dynamic?   I am able effectively to defer judgment, waiting for additional information that might explain ambiguous data.  The ability to defer judgment is associated with a highly-developed capacity for divergent, or creative, thinking.  I have a research attitude toward my environment.  It's as if the world were my laboratory.

Divergent thinking is a thought process or method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. It is often used in conjunction with convergent thinking, which follows a particular set of logical steps to arrive at one solution, which in some cases is a "correct" solution. Divergent thinking typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing manner, such that many ideas are generated in an emergent cognitive fashion. Many possible solutions are explored in a short amount of time, and unexpected connections are drawn. After the process of divergent thinking has been completed, ideas and information are organized and structured using convergent thinking.

Psychologists have found that a high IQ alone does not guarantee creativity. Instead, personality traits that promote divergent thinking are more important. Divergent thinking is found among people with personalities which have traits such as nonconformity, curiosity, willingness to take risks, and persistence.  (As David Callet would say, "I notice you seem to work very hard!") Additionally, researchers at Vanderbilt University found that musicians are more adept at utilizing both hemispheres and more likely to use divergent thinking in their thought processes.  Activities which promote divergent thinking include creating lists of questions, setting aside time for thinking and meditation, brainstorming, subject mapping / "bubble mapping", keeping a journal, creating artwork, and free writing.   In free writing, a person will focus on one particular topic and write non-stop about it for a short period of time, in a stream of consciousness fashion.

Do some law firms promote creative thinking?  Perhaps.  Patterson Belknap prides itself on independence of thought.  Patterson Belknap is a magnet for independent thinkers.  The firm was founded by attorneys who believed they could create a more congenial atmosphere on their own, away from the lockstep anonymity of larger firms.  Patterson Belknap carefully manages growth and purposefully operates with a single office in New York City.  The experiences and interests of Patterson Belknap attorneys lend a unique perspective and creativity to solving legal problems.

Compare my former employer, the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld.  The firm seems to operate according to the motto: "The bigger the better."  The firm has offices worldwide and seems to place a premium on growth.  The firm's rash decision to terminate my employment in late October 1991 might reflect the failure to carry out effective risk management by the firm's senior managers.   Patterson Belknap recognizes that the size of an organization is related to tolerance of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking; small organizations value diverse views, while larger organizations promote uniformity of thought.  In short, large organizations promote groupthink with its attendant intolerance of alternative points of view.

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within groups of people. It is the mode of thinking that happens when the desire for harmony in a decision-making group overrides a realistic appraisal of alternatives. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints. Antecedent factors such as group cohesiveness, structural faults, and situational context play into the likelihood of whether or not groupthink will impact the decision-making process. The primary socially negative cost of groupthink is the loss of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking.