Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Innovate, Innovate, Innovate the market is heading down the wrong side of the curve...we all know it...we're all in it....roll with it.

As Chuck says, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

Let us discuss however where the economic downturn leaves law firm KM and IT (and indeed the other professional support functions), your approach to innovation and (as workers within these support areas) your desire to innovate?

Should KM and IT management support a partner inspired short term position of immediate cost cuts which will no doubt result in project cancellations, recruitment freezing, and possible redundancies across KM and IT departments?

Do these reactionary approaches to the downturn impact the ability to support and foster innovation within a law firm? (...we say 'No, quite the opposite by the way'...) How can KM and IT continue to deliver, support and show value in the face of a swinging axe?

We were reminded by Ron Baker that the guru of business management Peter Drucker once famously noted:

"Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two--and only two--basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business."

While working with our clients in APAC and the UK, we've seen many firms pour funding into marketing and intelligent analysis of their existing clients, practice areas, and industries of interest...but what of innovation? Drucker preached that a business's required ability to both maintain existing consumers and to create new customers is directly dependent on that business's ability to produce innovative products and/or services.

If you want to see both at work, we suggest you not only refresh your reading on Drucker, but that you look at the ultimate case study - one Mr Will Kellogg. A summary of Kellogg's combination of both marketing and innovation (not just innovation in marketing, but innovation across the entire business) to drive success in a changing market can be read here - and many other more detailed examples exist for those wanting to burn the midnight oil.

Anique Gonzalez analysis of Drucker states that "In order for a company to maintain its market share, it must continue to out think and out-produce its competitors not only in terms of the selection of products and services that it offers but also in terms of its prices. In essence, all companies must continually strive to discover how they can better satisfy the needs and wants of consumers."

In fact, Drucker was such a proponent of innovation that he also advocated for the utilisation of "planned abandonment". Planned abandonment means rejecting the continued use of tactics, strategies, or techniques that brought a firm success in the past and, instead, [fosters an approach of] continually establishing new means by which the firm can attain success since, as is often the case, these "tried and true" methods of success are no longer useful.

In a profession as old as the law, and in institutions as "change challenging" as a law firm partnership model, the question we've been working with firms to answer over the past month or two is "how?". The answer......well, wink at us on a Wednesday and we'll tell you for free.

No comments: