Disruption is reinventing the wheel

Michael Cicconetti was a judge in Lake County, Ohio.

He was frustrated that sentencing criminals had become a conveyor belt.

No-one thought about what was happening, just like paying for goods at the supermarket checkout.

The judges handed out sentences like a checkout clerk ringing up a cash register.

And what really frustrated Judge Cicconetti was that he kept seeing the same faces appearing before him over and over again, so clearly this wasn’t working.

He knew he needed to get creative.

Not with repeat offenders – they had already accepted being part of the system.

But if he could make first-time offenders stop and think, maybe they wouldn’t become repeat offenders.

And he wouldn’t do that by just handing out the same old sentences.

He needed to disrupt the system.

Consequently, Judge Cicconetti began tailoring the sentence to each particular offender.

One of his cases involved a woman who had ignored the "STOP" sign and driven very fast round a parked school bus.

The judge sentenced her to a day riding on that school bus.

He wanted her to get to know all the little children that she could have knocked down.

In another case, a man was caught carrying a loaded gun with no permit.

The judge sentenced him to a day in the morgue, seeing the corpses that were put there by gun violence.

In another case, a man stole $250 from the Salvation Army’s collecting tin for the homeless.

The judge sentenced him to spend two days living on the streets as a homeless man.

In another case, a couple annoyed the neighbours by constantly playing music too loudly.

The judge sentenced them to 24 hours of complete silence in the woods.

In another case, three men were convicted of selling alcohol to underage teenagers.

The judge sentenced them to help build, and ride on, a Mardi-Gras float with the sign "Underage Drinking = Jail".

In another case, a 28-year-old woman had abandoned 40 kittens by the roadside.

The judge sentenced her to spend overnight in the forest on her own, to see what it felt like.

In another case, a woman left a dog in a disgusting, uninhabitable house for months.

The judge sentenced her to 24 hours picking through garbage on the Lake County landfill site.

In another case, a woman sprayed a Burger King employee with pepper spray.

The judge sentenced her to be sprayed with pepper spray herself (although she was actually sprayed with water).

In another case, a woman cheated a taxi driver out of a fare after he drove her 30 miles.

The judge sentenced her to walk 30 miles around a running track.

The sentences weren’t mandatory.

In each case, the offender had the choice between the usual jail time or the judge’s disruptive sentence.

In each case, the offender chose the disruptive sentence.

Judge Cicconetti says that in nearly all the cases, he never saw the first offender again.

He managed to disrupt the system.

That’s what got results – thinking of each case on its merits.

Not dropping into autopilot – into a lazy, default mode of thinking.

Not looking for a formula, but putting in the actual hard work of thinking.

Lazy people say: "Don’t reinvent the wheel."

But that’s the opposite of creative, disruptive thinking.

If you want to be creative, you have to reinvent the wheel, every time.

Dave Trott is the author of Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three.

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