Creativity can be a crucial element to resolving a legal action. “Off the shelf” proposals that may have settled many past cases will not work every time. Once you get from both parties what they’re truly seeking and what they’ll accept to resolve an issue, creativity may be needed to satisfy the parties’ needs and bring the case to a resolution.

A blog on Creative Something discusses a book by a Harvard psychologist and writer, Maria Konnikova, who explores how one might have a creative mind like that of fictional super sleuth Sherlock Holmes in her book Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes.

According to Konnikova, we can all think like Holmes, no matter our level of innate creativity and intelligence (or lack thereof). She writes that one need not be remarkably intelligent to be remarkably creative, you just need to know how to use your intelligence to come up with creative ideas.

She has four suggestions,

1.) Have more experiences

Creativity draws from what you know and what you don’t realize you know. The solution may come from deeply buried memories your brain fished out and connected to the current situation. Holmes referred to his storehouse of memories as his “brain attic.”

Fill your brain attic with new experiences. Whether it’s as simple as trying a new kind of food, commuting a different route to work or travelling to a different country, these experiences will increase the resources you can draw upon.

2.) Think about your experiences more often

Take the time to think about your experiences. Re-play them in your head. Day dream. Talk about them to others. It’s like doing mental exercises that will help you be more creative.

  • Reflection strengthens related connections in your neurological network. Thinking about things makes that knowledge more available when you need it.
  • You distinguish between what’s important and what’s not.
  • It forces you to observe and make sense of what went on and cease being a passive sponge soaking up a situation to an active observer. As an active observer, you can learn more and create more mental resources to pull from when they’re needed the most.

3.) Take your time and consider multiple solutions

When faced with a problem or challenge, you may quickly come up with a perfectly reasonable resolution, but it may not be the best one. Until you come up with multiple options and weigh their costs and benefits, you won’t know the best way to go.

Don’t take the mental path of least resistance like you may have been doing all your life. Consider different perspectives on the issue. Even a crazy idea may have a kernel of sanity that may grow into a viable option.  On many occasions, I have suggested an admittedly wacky solution to the parties in difficult cases.  The solution may eventually be rejected, but it sparks the flow of thinking towards a solution.  In one case involving ownership of property and theft, I suggested that each party stipulate that they will leave the mediation, go to the other person’s house immediately, and search in the exterior property for the missing items (industrial lawnmower, harvesting till, etc).  For each item in question that was found, the side that was holding the property would agree to a settlement of $10,000 cash as a consequence.  Each party thought about the idea, and eventually rejected the idea.  However, that concept led to a negotiated solution that the parties would keep what each other had and split the proceeds from revenue generated from farm production.

4.) Be motivated to think creatively

According to Konnikova, you’ll only be creative if you want to be creative,

“Motivated subjects always outperform. Students who are motivated perform better on something as seemingly immutable as the IQ test…motivation predicts, higher academic performance, fewer criminal convictions, and better employment outcomes…Indeed, when we learn anything new, we learn better if we are motivated learners.

Greater creativity may result in something as simple as more settled cases.  In mediation, you may ask yourself what would the other side want, why would they want something, and what options are available.  You could also ask yourself, if there was no money, what will help settle this case?  Getting yourself outside of your normal thought pattern is the key to creativity and the suggestions above of experiencing more new things, focusing more on your experiences, come up with multiple solutions to every day problems, may result in something as complex as getting more satisfaction from your life, or as simple as a better resolution to a litigated matter.