Image [cc] Austin Kleon

As I caught up on my professional reading through the slow week between Christmas and New Years, I came across a Forbes article by Ruth Blatt called The Remarkably Simple Technique Behind These Innovations In Music and In Business. To boil the article down to its core concept, businesses and music bands created innovative ideas and practices by removing something that was essential to the product. Blatt pointed out a few examples of where companies or music groups succeeded by stripping out something essential:

  • Southwest Airlines removed seat assignments
  • The Beatles stopped making music based on the need to play them live
  • Removing the backup battery out of an Emergency Room piece of equipment
The idea of removing something deemed essential and discovering something unique dovetails with with my article from 2012 where I asked “Now, Why Am I Still Doing This?“, but it goes further by not just removing processes that are no longer needed, but by eliminating critical (or at least what we think are critical) components of our overall processes, products, and services. In the firm law library world, some of these ideas are already happening:
  • Remove the researcher from the library (embedded librarians)
  • Remove the books from the library (virtual library)
  • Remove the word “Library” from the service description (notion being discussed by PLL)
 Perhaps there are other things we could do as well. How about:
  • Shifting minor routines to Secretaries or Word Processing departments (pulling cases, statutes, Shepardizing, cite checking, monitoring dockets, etc.)
  • Stop setting up alerts
  • No more clipping services (or whatever you call it these days with the online variations)
  • Stop billing researcher time
  • Stop providing personal copies of books to lawyers
  • Rotate Associates into the Researcher role

Again, these are more than the typical “Sacred Cows” that are brought up at budget time each year. These are essential services that are typically provided by the law library and should cause a collective gasp whenever discussed. Sometimes it is only by turning ideas and processes on their heads that you can see things differently and come up with unique innovations.

I’ve challenged some of my friends in other departments to think of ways they can add to their own team’s value by subtracting essential services. I’ll extend that challenge to the 3 Geeks’ readers as well. Think of something essential in your process… and remove it. What would happen?

  • Anonymous

    I disagree with your suggested approach. I think a better approach is to remove all nonessential services and focus on how to srengthen and improve your essential core services. That is the value proposition we bring to the practice and business of law.

  • With respect to Anonymous, I think that we got rid of all non-essential services years ago. I do agree with aliging work to value though.

    One thing we removed from the library teams plate in 2013 was the amount of librarian time required for some tasks. Rather than the usual technical service process of recording every new issue of a current awareness subscription in our database and personally pushing it our to a user list, we have automated that which can be automated and only review the reciept of the storage of those items quarterly.

    A simple subtraction of an essential component of a service, but it creates time for law library staff to focus on more valued services.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post Greg.

  • Anonymous: if you still have nonessential services, then you are correct. Get rid of them. I believe that the recession spurred that concept over the past five years, so most of us are looking at the next steps. My suggestion is to look at those 'core services' and think about removing one of those services and see what innovation is created to bring new (hopefully higher) value to the services we provide.

  • Greg and I were on the same theme today. I am taking a poll on what people have stopped or started in 2013 and what they plan to stop or start in 2014. Take the poll at Dewey B Strategic.