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Inspiring a Spirit of Innovation--For Work and For Life

Sam Bock

I don’t know about you, but the people who inspire me most at work aren’t just great at fulfilling their roles. They show a special kind of curiosity, adaptability, and passion that helps them reach beyond their silo and contribute to their communities in more ways than the ones listed on their job descriptions.

This quality is starkly apparent in our individual Innovation Awards winners. And not only do they embody a great spirit of innovation themselves—but they help spark that passion in others, too.

Check out these insights from some of our 2020 winners—Stellar Women in e-Discovery Kenya Parrish-Dixon, Academic Innovator of the Year Joseph Vallette, and Inclusion Breakthrough of the Year Maribel Rivera—to feel a little of that spark for yourself.

On helping colleagues, mentees, and students build on their skills and evolve their passions alongside a shifting market.

Kenya: In this new COVID-19 reality, I spend a lot of time writing, presenting, speaking on panels, and, recently, I have started having virtual lunch or coffee with some really interesting people. I enjoy engaging but nowadays it is almost exclusively virtual. In my company, I encourage people to take training and to join organizations. I think this is a time to shore up your skillsets and make connections. Additionally, I would advise people to reach out to others who have skills that you want to learn and ask questions.

Maribel: I often sit with these individuals and have a discussion to learn more about what they love or enjoy. Also, I try to understand who they see themselves in competition with, or who is in a role that they find of interest. Providing them self-understanding allows them to focus on strengths and helps to align them with individuals who they can learn from. All ways to build on those unique skills. 

Joseph: I started using computers in 1988. Consequently, at this point in my career, I have forgotten how to use more computer software than I actually know how to use. I recognize that after each iteration of software released, what used to be true may no longer be so. Therefore, whenever I teach a technology course, I not only teach what a student needs to know, but also what they need to forget. I find this type of teaching requires active engagement because what I am asking my student to do is very difficult. I am asking them to recognize that what they currently know to be correct is actually incorrect, and then at this point I present them with what they don’t know yet but need to learn. Moreover, I ask them to examine their habits and recognize what is making them inefficient. All of this requires students who are engaged and who can immediately interact with the courseware so that they can practice what they have learned.

On their best advice for someone new to e-discovery.

Kenya: e-Discovery is a multidisciplinary field. I would tell anyone new to it that becoming well versed in legal processes, technology, and project management is a must. I would recommend that any person new to eDiscovery should become a member of ACEDS (Association of Certified eDiscovery Specialists). Then, I would recommend getting some certifications under their belt.

Maribel: e-Discovery is different for each person depending on the role and the type of organization—law firm, government agency, corporation, vendor. There is always something to learn and someone to learn from. It changes so quickly because our digital world is changing. Of course, I recommend they read specific blogs like The Relativity Blog, eDiscovery Today, ACEDS, Complex Discovery, and others. I also suggest for people considering a role to take a course such as ACEDS eDiscovery Executive Certificate Program that provides foundational knowledge. Finally networking groups such as ACEDS and Women in eDiscovery are key to helping to learn and build a network. 

On how they foster an innovative mindset in peers, direct reports, and students.

Kenya: I encourage three important qualities to inspire innovation: willingness to try; willingness to fail; and willingness to continue learning and growing. Nothing is perfect right out of the gate so you have to be willing to try and fail, sometimes repeatedly, to create something new. Additionally, collaboration cannot be underrated. I don’t mean working in one of those open floorplan offices. I mean working on your own and then raising questions about how to do things more efficiently. Those questions need to be posed every year, month, and week. As a manager, you must listen to your team. You may not arrive at a solution or get a spark the first time you hear of an issue but it will come, if you are listening. Also, it is important for people to feel comfortable discussing solutions to problems and ways to innovate. One of my best bosses would encourage us to throw ideas out there. There were no wrong answers or ideas. That freedom of expression keeps the mind sharp and allows for comfortable collaboration.

Joseph: I think that we should always be progressing when it comes to e-learning. That is the primary reason why I try to make my curriculum come alive for my students and why I create my courses so that they are engaging. We need to keep what works, change what doesn’t, and continually improve upon what remains. Whenever I think of the state of e-learning, I also think of George Santayana’s quote, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” As a lawyer, I have trained myself to always look things up, both for accuracy and for context. So, when I looked up this quote, I found that George Santayana was not actually referring to history but rather he was referring to progress. My interpretation of this convoluted quote is that Santayana was saying that, if one keeps doing the same thing over and over without taking note of what is wrong with what we are doing, then we are merely remaining where we are and not progressing. Albert Einstein would say that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Whether it be insanity or infancy, the idea is that to move forward, we have to take stock of what we are doing, and then continually improve upon it, even if it is only by small incremental improvements each time.

On what winning this year's Innovation Award means to them.

Kenya: I feel so humbled and grateful for this award. It means a tremendous amount to be recognized by my peers. I try to leave every place I’ve been better than when I arrived. It means fighting for training, justifying a budget, and getting to know each person that I work with so I can help them achieve a level of growth in their career. It is a struggle, but it is well worth it. This industry is fast-paced and filled with brilliance. I am grateful to be able to keep up.

Maribel: As a child, English was my second language. I remember being teased and treated differently because of my accent. I also remember how teachers thought I needed to be placed in speech classes because of it. Then I think of my sons and my sisters and how much harder we all had to work to move forward. Or the young people at the LGBTQ+ shelters I work with through Life Preservers Project. I am immensely proud of the work I’ve done championing underserved communities, and this award shows that I must be on the right path because people are noticing and listening. But I know we have further to go when it comes to creating a safe, diverse, and equitable world where everyone knows they belong—not just feels it but knows it. 

Joseph: This award means so much to me. I am humbled by your recognition that by merely taking the course material provided by Relativity in a pdf document along with a series of their videos, and restructuring this same material into a more conducive online experience is considered innovative. All I was trying to do was make a small incremental improvement to material that already existed and present it in a more engaging and interactive format, and in so doing, progress one more incremental step towards my ultimate vision for online learning.

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Sam Bock is a member of the marketing team at Relativity, and serves as editor of The Relativity Blog.