9/13/16

Landslides, Bongs and Innovation

Innovation is hard.  Despite how easily the word gets tossed around, like a "bong at a frat party" as a friend likes to say, but to truly innovate, to truly change a process, a culture, a product is one of the most difficult things to do. 

Many legal industry pundits call for law firm innovation, and us non-lawyers have been called out as the gatekeepers of innovation because we are not moving mountains, challenging the status quo faster or with enough chutzpah.  There may be some truth to those claims, we do get frustrated, our ideas can be difficult to implement in the highly matrixed world of law firms and we can get stymied by politics.  Often we give up and retreat into the comfortable,  "we've tried that before" type excuses.  But we have to keep trying, use different approaches, find new language and keep repeating the cost benefit of not changing.  If we don't innovate or transform what and how we do things, we may see more of our roles outsourced or vanish entirely as has been the trend. Today, I pulled out a report I created back in 2008 as an example of what firms could and should be doing for CI and practice strategy.  At the time, the report was shot down for a variety of reasons but as I resurrected it from my "precedents" folder today, and blew off the dust, I still saw its brilliance.  It would have been easy to walk away and not keep trying to innovate in the space given that set back. I was crushed to be honest and wondered why I was working in the industry when what I was hired to do was not welcomed with open arms.    The report was and still is a perfect example of CI innovation in firms. At the time, no one was talking about insights or big data.  But the report pulled together internal insights with external data, it combined form with function. It's a beautiful report and it lives in my file cabinet to this day.  A pretty picture of what could be. 


I didn't walk away from the legal industry or my craft, I kept at it and eight years later I have a well respected and culturally ingrained version of that would-be quarterly report going out daily in my firm.  The insights may not be as bold but the delivery is faster and tailored to the individual user.  It's a baby Pheonix rising from the ashes.  There is still work to be done to truly innovate in the legal space, much of that innovation and change is culturally and client dependant.  But that doesn't mean that we should give up, walk away or ignore the hard.  Embrace the hard, chip away at it day in and day out.  Instead of focusing on what we can't do in our firms, finding that report today inspired me to think about what I have accomplished and to change the narrative.  We have to focus on what we can and do change, and keep pushing through the hard to make things happen.  Celebrate the small wins and open the proverbial gates that's we are accused of keeping closed by finding ways to get through to challenging professionals and business owners, whether on a CI project, a profitability and pricing analysis or a library resource that can increase a firm's efficacy.  Innovation is about changing a culture, about upending what is into what can be and sticking with it.  Innovation is hard. 

As I drove home tonight thinking about this post, Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide came on the radio and I had to smile.  Time does make you bolder. And time sometimes it is exactly what you need to innovate too.  Its time to be bold. 

 

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1 comments:

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