3/13/14

Clearing Up Some Myth-conceptions

I have said in the past that my job as a blogger is to get the conversation started.  By that measure, my last post was extremely successful.  Three bloggers, that I know of, felt compelled to write follow up posts to The Myth of Disruptive Technology,  and at least one commenter went so far as to "not suggest this post is without value".
I think I agree with all of them, but I'm not sure I said anything they think I said.  :-)

Sam and I had a good laugh on Twitter about starting a conference to rival ReInvent Law called the Slow-Evolving Practice of Law Conference. Although, to be honest, I'm not against the idea of reinventing or disrupting law, in fact, it's probably going to be the most outrageous and outlandish ideas coming out of ReInvent Law that will eventually be watered down and whittled away until they become the small incremental change that adds up over time. Big ideas most often lead to incremental change, while incremental ideas get swept away.

And I agree with Nina, Disruptive Technology and Innovation absolutely exist! The myth that I refer to in the title is "that you can buy, build, or imagine [a technology] that you can simply drop into your existing workflow and reasonably expect it to disrupt anything other than your existing workflow." And I stand by that. I draw a distinction between technology that by its very existence will disrupt an industry (which does not exist) and a company that uses such technology to great effect in order to disrupt an industry (which happens all the time). Netflix, and other video streaming services, are the latter and, as Nina rightly states, they are continuing to disrupt other industries like cable television.  But again, it's the business model that is disruptive, not the delivery mechanism. The delivery mechanism may make the business model possible, but on its own it's of little additional value. It's not the technology that's disruptive, it's how you use it.

And Steven's post is fantastic, I went back and reread it three times. There's some great stuff in there and some fascinating analysis, but my thesis was not that Blockbuster "failed by not responding earlier to Netflix", but that Blockbuster "had no way to adopt streaming video without completely undermining the rest of their business." They weren't willing to undermine the good thing they had going, which was a rational, if ultimately fatal, decision.

When I first published the post on the LexisNexis Future of Law Blog, my good friend Ron Friedmann gave me a hard time on Twitter.
I joked that I couldn't give everything away for free, but I actually alluded to the answer in the next sentence. "Now is the time to build a legal service delivery engine that can accommodate project management, automation, artificial intelligence, and extreme transparency to clients." While that is definitely not a comprehensive list of the next great innovations in law, I think it's fair to say that those four innovations are already happening. And those four innovations all point to one big historical change for the practice of law, process efficiency now matters. 

Maybe I should have said that efficiency is to law what streaming video is to the video rental industry?  I didn't want say anything that concrete in the last post, because let's face it, it's ridiculous. Although, I can't help but think there's a parallel between Blockbuster not being able to stream video and remain profitable and some firms not being able to increase efficiency and remain profitable.  After all, profit has been based on inefficiency in law firms for a long time. Technology may be able to help, and some of those technologies could be called potentially disruptive, but technology alone will never make you disruptive, or efficient, or profitable.  I think my original point was something along those lines.  Although to be honest, this has been interpreted in so many different ways, I'm not entirely sure what I meant originally.

Still, I can take some solace in the fact that at the very least my original post made Byron think. And that's good enough for me.

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3 comments:

Steven B. Levy, author of Legal Project Management said...

Although it may be hit or myth, I think the Blockbuster analogy, because it's so vivid, provides a way to jumpstart some new variations on a conversation that's been bubbling for six or seven years.

By the way, Part II of my piece is here, talking about commoditization and the LPO model, compensation, and, of course, Legal Project Management.

James Hannigan said...

I don't think using total revenue as a gauge to judge strategic steps that should have been taken is valid. The point is Blockbuster should have taken major steps to address Christensen's "job to do" maxim; Netflix clearly was hitting on alternative means to deliver movies but BB didn't seem to care much because the stores were so profitable for so long. That is the innovator's dilemma. Revenue may have dipped as the market changed but dipping temporarily is better than permanent extinction. The lesson for law firms is to be aware of alternative business models and vigilantly plan and analyze how to adjust to them; I think that's what you're saying Toby and i agree.

Byron said...

Still thinking...

"Although, I can't help but think there's a parallel between Blockbuster not being able to stream video and remain profitable and some firms not being able to increase efficiency and remain profitable."

There's the point. It's an astute observation.

Blockbuster could have and remained profitable. They chose not to for a host of reasons. These reasons are trust of most large firms.

Books of business will be won and lost on efficiency, no question.

 

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