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Adam Billing, partner of the Møller PSF Group, founder and director of Treehouse Innovation, explores how to embed design thinking into law firms’ DNA in order to drive innovation while saving time and money. Adam is a speaker at our ''Real Change - Transform your firm with Service Design and Agile'' event on the 15th of November 2016. Further details below.
Fresh thinking from outside the legal sector will be needed to drive the next wave of growth in law firms. One approach that a growing number of corporates are using to drive innovation is design thinking. Today, most law firms are not yet set up to do this well, and examples of best practice in the sector are not easy to find. Some forward-looking firms are beginning to search outside of the sector for new approaches to drive continuous innovation. While new to the legal sector, design thinking has helped to transform and invigorate some of the world’s most successful corporations, including Google, Apple, Airbnb, Procter & Gamble and Ebay.
In short, design thinking is a human-centred approach to innovation.
Design thinking doesn’t create additional work for people or ask them to set aside extra time to innovate. It encourages cross disciplinary collaboration and balances creativity with analytical rigour to ensure that great ideas don’t just get generated, but are also successfully implemented. It is not a cumbersome project management methodology, nor is it just blue-sky thinking.
Design thinking helps organisations to:
Let’s consider some of the methods and mindsets of design thinking that could enable law firms to drive growth and create sustainable competitive advantage.
Innovation is a team sport. It requires people to get their hands dirty, embrace ambiguity and learn that the best ideas often come from working with those who are different from themselves. Looking beyond the firm’s walls, some of the best new services and products can come from collaborating directly with clients. Involving clients in the early stages of service co-creation can provide an invaluable perspective into what really matters to them, resulting in solutions with greater buy-in and support as well as deeper and more enduring relationships.
There is no shortage of great ideas in most law firms. Often, the challenge is seeing the best ideas through to successful implementation. In most corporate and law firm cultures, there is a tendency for individuals and teams to work on an idea in relative isolation until they feel that it is ‘ready’ to present. Countless hours of meetings and discussion can go into a potential solution before it is shared with someone outside of the group. Over this time, individuals and teams risk becoming overly attached to these developed, yet untested ideas. Design thinking recognises that no idea is born perfect and that often those closest to the idea are the least able to identify the flaws it might have. New ideas are immediately mocked up as rapid prototypes, shared and tested, allowing for teams to systematically root out and remedy hidden problems as early as possible.
''Design thinking doesn’t create additional work for people or ask them to set aside extra time to innovate. Rather, it helps them to do their day-to-day work of serving clients and managing the firm in a more effective way. Teams spend less time talking and more time doing.''
Design thinking has enabled some of the world’s most successful companies to continuously innovate, adapt and grow. It is not a silver bullet or a one-size-fits all solution. However, for those law firms willing to break from the status quo and pursue new routes to competitive advantage, design thinking could help to unlock the next wave of growth as well as to build a culture of innovation, thus ensuring the firm’s sustained success. The time to take a more strategic approach to innovation is now – not after the storm of market disruption is upon us, but rather while the sun is still shining.
This article was first published in Volume 17 Issue 8 edition of Managing Partner magazine.
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