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innovate by noticing more

5 Tips for Lawyers to Notice More Business Opportunities

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be used in place of professional advice, treatment, or care in any way. Lawyers, law students, judges, and other legal professionals in Massachusetts can find more on scheduling a Free & Confidential appointment with a licensed clinician here.

If you take these proactive steps to improve your ability to notice, you’ll find more business opportunities for your law practice.

People talk about IQ and emotional intelligence. Now, it’s time to talk about innovation intelligence. Innovation and change begins by locating opportunities for personal, career, or business growth. It’s difficult to innovate and change if you aren’t noticing opportunities.

Reality is this: You won’t notice opportunities if you aren’t good at noticing and most of us are very limited in our noticing skills. When it comes to innovation intelligence, we miss opportunities everyday because we’re not very good at noticing.

Find out how to improve your ability to notice what you’ve been missing by viewing (on demand) this program on Locating Opportunities for Business Growth from our Innovation Series with the Mass Bar Association.

Here are 2 exercises to start right now.

Try this experiment: Choose a colleague, client, friend, spouse, person-in-case-of, or neighbor. Close your eyes and try to recall the last time you saw that person. What were they were wearing? What was their emotional tenor? Can you recall their tone of voice, body language, and what they said and did?

Try this experiment: Close your eyes and describe the room you are in right now. Now, open your eyes. What did you notice and what did you miss?
If you aren’t good a noticing, you’re going to miss the next, best opportunity that comes your way, because I promise you, it won’t look like an opportunity at first glance. Noticing is a skill, honed over time with practice. Innovation intelligence begins with noticing more.

Put these 5 tips to notice more on a Post-It or Smartphone Note until they become instinctive:

  1. Stop and look.
  2. Use your 5 senses and your pattern and relationship recognition.
  3. Be curious.
  4. Avoid assumptions.
  5. Observe and compare change over time.

1. Stop and Look.
Look. Really look. And notice everything and then notice some more. Look up from whatever you are doing right now. Close your eyes. What do you remember seeing? Open your eyes. What did you remember? What did you forget? How much detail could you provide?
Now, look somewhere else. We tend to look in one direction at one central figure that captures our attention and everything fades into the background. Make the background the foreground. After you’ve done that for a while, turn around and look somewhere else.

2. Use your 5 senses and your pattern and relationship recognition.
For purposes of this tip, accept that there are at least two different types of data to collect. The first is the type of data that you notice when you use your 5 senses fully. The second is more abstract.

It’s the patterns, relationships, and concepts that we call the big picture in contrast the details our 5 senses experience. Now, just accept that most people tend to notice one type of data or the other, but rarely both without an awareness of their tendencies and practice using their non-preferred tendency.

Make sure you use all five senses.  What do you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste (when part of the experience)? Pay attention to the strength and style of a handshake, the tenor of a voice, the scent of a person and a room.  Then ask yourself how your perception is being affected. Your context will affect what you notice and the important you give it. Expand your awareness of your context to notice more.

Make sure to look for patterns and relationships, too.  Culture and power dynamics show up in patterns of behavior, not in the employee handbook. Relationships between outcomes (results) and the variables of your context, you, and interactions show up as patterns.

3. Be curious.
Act like a journalist and ask questions to yourself and others. Be curious. What’s happening? How are people and objects in a room arranged? What are people wearing, doing, and saying? Expand your vocabulary for describing body language, voice tenor, facial expressions, and emotions.

4. Avoid assumptions.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you know the answer or have collected all the data that matter. Innovation intelligence and noticing more means testing your assumptions and reaching conclusions much more slowly. It doesn’t mean hesitating to reach a decision when the data is incomplete or ambiguous. It does mean developing a heightened awareness of your unconscious assumptions. Everyone has them. It does mean knowing the difference between perception and data on the one hand and judgments, assumptions, and conclusions on the other. Suspend your judgment until the time is right to make a decision.

5. Observe and compare change over time.
People’s behavior changes as their context changes. Notice how the same person can appear completely different in a different context or the same group can react differently to different assignments. Compare people over time. What did you notice then and now? Equally, if not more importantly, noticing the outcomes of your actions. What reactions are you getting to whatever you are doing? What happens if you change your actions? How do the results change?


Let’s say you’re right-hand dominant. In that case, you prefer to write with your right hand. With practice, you could learn to use your left hand, but it would take time, more concentration, and the results wouldn’t be as good as with your right hand at first. It’s the same situation with your noticing skills. Do you prefer to notice and collect data or reach conclusions? Do you prefer to notice the data associated with your five senses or patterns and concepts? It’s difficult to improve your noticing skills without knowing your status at the outset. If you are curious about your noticing skills, want to learn more about where you stand, and start expanding your innovation intelligence, it’s time to watch our Innovation Workshop and find out.

CATEGORIES: Career Planning & Transition | Lawyer's Quality of Life | Planning

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