7 things to keep in mind on the innovation journey

They say every journey begins with just one step. So too does your adventure innovating in law. However, before you embark on implementing innovation – or any change – it’s important to know what you’re in for. Below are eight things to keep in mind before you begin.

Rough camping on unfenced land (Kyrgyzstan) Photo by Alison Laird

1. New initiatives are hard to get off the ground

At times you’ll feel like you’re out on your own. Sometimes you are. But allies often come from unlikely sources. Keep an open mind and find people who will have your back.

Uzbekistan interpretation on fast food Photo by Alison Laird

2. No one really loves change

If you ask most people if they like change they will almost invariably say no. Our risk averse lawyers definitely don’t. As we know, they like rules. And “innovation” is generally outside the rules they know and love. Demonstrate the ‘what’s in it for me’ benefits – time and cost efficiency gains means happier clients with the added bonus of maintaining profit margins. Me? I love change – it always brings about opportunities.

On the road (Armenia) Photo by Alison Laird

3. The goal posts will change

Get ready for the many twists and turns that lie ahead. There won’t always be a clear path, or road map, or plan. Sometimes your path will be blocked and you’ll need to find an alternative route. After all, what you’re doing is “new” and different. Learn to be friends with ambiguity and uncertainty.

The faces of the Bayon temples (Angkor Thom, Cambodia) Photo by Alison Laird

4. Make peace with the blockers

Some people will never change. Make peace with the blockers – you know the ones: “but we’ve always done it this way”; “sounds great – but my practice is different, special, unique”; “you know I’d love to but I’m really just too busy at the moment”; “my clients aren’t interested”. (Really?!) Instead focus your time with the lawyers who do want to learn, grown, and participate creating something different to set themselves apart. The blockers will see the light – eventually.

Dirty work – changing the flat tyre of the 22-tonne truck roadside (Azerbaijan) – remind me again why I thought this adventure would be fun?! Photo by Alison Laird

5. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty

To launch something new and really get it working, you’ll probably have to get your hands dirty, roll up your sleeves, get into the detail, look at it from a different perspective; really understand how things work so you can help make them better.

Unexpected sight in remote mountains (Tajikistan) Photo by Alison Laird

6. Expect the unexpected at every turn

Every now and then you may get diverted from the original goal while the business learns how to embed new practices. Things will come at you from all angles: management update requests, partner demands, client queries, finance updates. You need to think on your feet and at best – be proactive; at worst – at least be responsive. Expect the unexpected and you’ll never be disappointed.

Stopped in our (dirt) tracks (Tajikistan) Photo by Alison Laird

7. Things will go wrong

When things go wrong, take some time out to assess where you’re at and work out where to go next. Which priority is more urgent, or important? Where will we get the biggest bang for our buck? How much change can the business handle at once? It’s important you become part of the solution and not part of the problem. And it *will* take longer than you think so be prepared for the extra hours and effort that will be required.

Just remember, you’ll inevitably have to do something you’ve never done before to get a result you haven’t seen. So where should you start…