Macro Impacts of Micro Innovations
What an impressive panel we had on July 19th for Lupl’s Innovators of Law Series! If you missed the webinar, here are some insights from today’s panel.
Today’s interactive conversation was aimed at demystifying how you can stack small wins that amplify throughout your entire organization. Kalina Leopold, our very own Senior Manager of Customer Success & Growth at Lupl, was joined by Catherine McPherson, Legal Technology Strategist at Barlit Beck LLP, and Nikki Shaver, CEO And Co-founder at Legaltech Hub.
First, we asked our panel…
What does innovation mean to you?
The answers may or may not surprise you! Innovation is taking a new approach to solve a problem. Catherine noted that on a microlevel this means addressing something that doesn’t work anymore. In fact, simply asking the question, how can we make this work better, is in and of itself innovative. Innovation can be client driven, determined by the business or can be due to cultural changes, as we saw in the spring and summer of 2020.
The first order of business is to define what innovation means to your organization – put it in concrete terms. Additionally, it’s important to note that how you frame the innovation is particularly important and it can mean different things over time. One way to do this is with McKinsey’s Three Horizons of Growth Model, described by Nikki Shaver.
A great article by the Harvard Business Review describes the three time horizons in simple terms:
- Horizon 1 Ideas provide continuous innovation to a company’s existing business model and core capabilities in the short-term.
- Horizon 2 Ideas extend a company’s existing business model and core capabilities to new customers, markets, or targets.
- Horizon 3 Is the creation of new capabilities and new business to take advantage of or respond to disruptive opportunities or to counter disruption.
Innovation is about solving a problem in the present, and to do that one must also consider the future and how we can set ourselves up for success down the road.
If innovation means doing things differently to produce a better outcome…
How can we shift our perspective on innovation?
The first step is to shift your thinking to active improvement and quality of service execution. Catherine advised that talent management is very important here. You can start by identifying subject matter experts within your organization and may need to repurpose certain roles / individuals to migrate their talents to things that may not have been anticipated. The thing is: innovation can happen anywhere. And as a result, Nikki pointed out, this is exactly why you need an innovation strategy. Include in this strategy a way to inform the organization regularly; to be effective and successful everyone needs to know their role and why that role is so important (in an outcomes-oriented way).
Another steppingstone towards innovation is diversity. Insights coming from fresh eyes, or the newest members of the team, can spark creativity. Additionally, having a diverse team has proven time and again to be an effective tool towards successfully implementing change that improves quality of life for employees and clients! Kalina noted that humility, especially from leadership, is required from all team members to create an innovative environment. Humility in this case is the understanding that it’s okay if you are not the one who has the most brilliant idea, and it is crucial to allowing every team member to feel as though they can voice even the craziest of ideas!
What can an organization do to drive innovation if there is none at a macro level?
Our panelists agreed that you there are limitations to driving innovation from the bottom up – at some point you must get support and buy in from leadership. That said, there are many ways to drive innovation, even if you feel as though the organization you work for isn’t leading the charge. Here are just a few ideas that came out of the discussion:
- Run a postmortem on a recent case or trial. Ask those teams what worked and what didn’t work. Not only will you glean insights from this feedback, but you will also instill in your teams a trend of considering workflow and logistics on future projects.
- Do an innovation audit. This is a listening effort. Sit down with the attorneys and staff members you speak to the most and ask them open ended questions about their work, the bottlenecks, frustrations, pain points, etc. Take the data you retrieve and find the easy wins! If multiple teams or team members report the same pain point, you now have a brilliant starting place for an innovation opportunity.
- Find out what’s going on the industry. Every time we go to a conference or networking event, we learn invaluable information about what is going on in our industry. Sharing those insights with your organization creates a knowledge base of your competitive landscape and trends in the industry.
- Tap into FOMO. Now that you’re acutely aware of what others are doing in the space, tapping into the feeling of missing out (or being left out) has the power to keep competitive spirits alive as you move through your own innovation initiatives.
- Foster support for legal tech strategy through leadership. Being open to ideas and creative an environment requires talent management, as we mentioned earlier. When creating an innovation strategy consider the people in your organization who can help. Perhaps there are 1-2 people can take on a leadership role for the innovation initiative? This allows leadership to maintain their responsibilities while empowering others in the organization.
- Communicated TNTs. Tiny noticeable things can have a huge impact with less resistance because they enhance daily workflow rather than disrupting it. Host regular meetings with different staff members for a show & tell of what is working so others can see what solutions are there and help to create an innovative environment.
- Look for Bright Spots. Dan and Chip Heath have written many books over the years, but one process stands out among the rest: finding bright spots. This is about identifying where things are working really well, find out why it’s working so well, and consider how to replicate that in other areas of the organization.
As we look towards the future, said Nikki, one of the key indicators on whether a firm is an innovator is whether the lawyers have freedom to act outside the legal matter. There is always work that can drive revenue without being associated with a case or trial. New efficiencies within workflow have the power to streamline processes, allowing employees more time to do other, perhaps revenue generating work. And as we all know, this isn’t just a win for the business or support staff, this frees up bandwidth for those focused on billable hours too!
When it comes to innovation, is it better to ask for forgiveness or permission?
Overall, the panelists believe that asking for permission is the best way to go; however, if permission does not exist, wherever possible it is okay to take innovation into your own hands. Of course, this means respecting the privacy of the organization, following employee policies and brand guidelines.
Outside of the areas where you must get approval, there are many things you can do to drive micro innovations. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Pay your own way…if you can. We realize this is a less-than-desirable option and not accessible to everyone. But…if your organization doesn’t have a budget for conferences or networking events, that doesn’t mean you can’t go and pay on your own. You may even find that after you go and bring back all the juicy industry details to the team, your organization is willing to reimburse you for some or all the travel.
- Find internal champions. Find those in the organization that have a louder voice than you and see if you can win their support. Listen to partners, managers, and those in leadership to hear what there interests are to see if align with the ideas you have. Perhaps you can get them to see the value in your creativity and set things in motion! Additionally, if the idea works (and sometimes even when it doesn’t), now you have powerful team members who can also take credit for the positive impact, increasing the chances they may help champion one of your ideas in the future.
- It’s all about the business case. Create a business case that highlights the strategic value of your idea. How could this innovation save time or money? What problem does it solve? How does the opportunity cost match up to the implementation cost? These are all questions you should be able to answer if you want to pitch a new idea to the powers that be.
- Engage early and often. Highlighting the positives is a great way to showcase why the new workflow, tech stack, or idea is useful and is already helping the organization. Describing the successes early can help people see the positive impact and lessen the aversion to change.
- There will always be naysayers. Some skeptics will always be skeptical, and their opinions need to be controlled and isolated, as best one can. It is simply the nature of life that not everyone will be on board. Try not to listen to the negatives too much from people in your organization who you know poo-poo everything.
Here is one last tidbit: Ask yourself if your organization is creating a space for all the “crazy” ideas – because you never know what may come of it!