When I sat down to write this post, it was going in a whole different direction. Given the hot topics of innovation and the future of the legal industry, I was thinking I might add to the growing discussions around the recommendations of the CBA Futures Report (see here, here and here).
Then, about half way down the social media rabbit hole I was following as part of my “blog research”, I came across this interview (thanks @karenskinner) with Alex Novarese, editor-in-Chief of Legal Business, discussing the future of the legal industry in the UK. In the interview Mr. Novarese makes the following observation about the relationship between clients and innovation, I quote:
There is a cliché that clients drive change: it’s often not true. Innovation in many industries often comes from the suppliers. There’s a famous quote Henry Ford was reputed to have said along the lines of: ‘If I just sat around asking what the customers wanted, I’d have invented a faster horse.’
This got me thinking about whether or not Mr. Novarese is right. And, more disturbingly, if the recent reports on access to justice by the CBA and the Action Committee on Access to Civil Justice and Family Matters – both of which suggest putting the public first and involving those who use the system in the reform process – are wrong.
Do people really not know what they want and need? By focusing on user experience are destined to simply get faster horses?
I’m happy to say I respectfully disagree with Mr. Novarese, as do plenty of designers, innovators and researchers who see real value in including users in the innovation design process. In fact, user experience and increased collaboration is seen as particularly important in public sector innovation (see for example, here & here)
That said, working with others on complex justice problems is hard. So hard, in fact, that the HiiL, a première justice innovation lab located in the Hague, has identified developing guidelines for inclusive participation in justice innovation as a challenge for regulatory bodies. Nonetheless, many, like those in BC experimenting with an inclusive family justice social lab and those working to establish local access to justice committees, are already trying.
As those of us working in the justice sector continue to deepen our commitment to collaborative work we need to develop better strategies for working together productively in multi-disciplinary stakeholder groups. “Consulting” with others, is not enough. Users and “non-legal” stakeholders have important skills and experiences we need to draw on. To solve a complex social problem like access to justice, we need to learn to work closely with others who may not share our views, our experiences and maybe even the same perception of the access to justice problem (and solution) that we do.
Luckily there are plenty of resources out there that can help. Many of them are being developed in the social innovation field (from which we can learn a lot). Below are a few randomly selected resources that we’ve begun to adapt, develop, “think on” and practice at the Winkler Institute for Dispute Resolution and the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice in our A2J projects and research.
- HDC Connect offers a number of great resources for innovators wanting to strategically engage with and include multiple communities in the innovation process. Among the many great resources it offers, the website provides a (free) online toolkit containing recourses to help innovators recruit the right participants, build empathy skills in multi-stakeholder settings, and engage in community driven discovery processes. The methods toolkit is based on a human centered design model that – you guessed it – puts people at the center of the process.
- Similarly, NESTA a UK innovation hub offers a wide range of practical tools, such as “value mapping” exercises that can be used to help multi-stakeholder groups clarify their goals and develop shared values that can assist groups (whether loosely formed, permanent, or project based) in retaining their focus, working productively as a team, being more creative, and better engaging outside stakeholders.
- For those more interested in inclusive law and technology design, the youtube channel UXrevu offers a few short videos that demonstrate how user experience can aid the design process. Although they no longer appear to be actively posting videos – the few available will at least make you stop to consider how useful user experience can be when designing new online justice innovations.
- Finally, the social innovation lab model (which will be familiar to slaw readers thanks to Kari Boyle’s posts, here & here), developed by Adam Khane and the Reos group offers several insights into how to improve our ability to work together on difficult social problems. My own personal favorite challenge put forward by Khane in his book Solving Tough Problems, is to avoid “talking politely”. Too often when working in groups that include participants from beyond our own professional network, we defer to speaking politely in the hopes of minimizing conflict, out of fear of political reprisal, etc. However, to work collaboratively – with users, colleagues and other stakeholders – we need to be able to talk honestly about how we understand the problem and the solution.
Much of the innovation work we need to do in the justice sector will depend on creating the rights conditions for innovation. This starts with bringing together the right groups people to work on the right problems. It will also involve building trust among groups that have not previously been invited into the process. Bottom line: if we don’t create a space where users (and others) feel safe suggesting a car, then we will, indeed, end up with more horses.
— Nicole Aylwin