Above and Beyond KM

A discussion of knowledge management that goes above and beyond technology.

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This publication contains my personal views and not necessarily those of my clients. Since I am a lawyer, I do need to tell you that this publication is not intended as legal advice or as an advertisement for legal services.
  • Yahoo! Hack Day In the world of law firm blogging there is Bruce MacEwen…and then there are the rest of us. Writing as Adam Smith Esq., Bruce has just completed an extraordinary series of posts entitled “Growth is Dead.” In his final installment, The S-Curve, Bruce says that if law firms wish to survive the current economic headwinds, it’s critical that they identify the next S-Curve and jump on it. The problem is that for all the hand-wringing we’ve seen since 2008 (usually accompanied by dire mutterings about the “New Normal”), there don’t appear to be many well-considered, internally coherent proposals for that new S-Curve.

    For those of you coming to the conversation late, S-Curves illustrate, among other things, life cycles (of technology, for instance) and the diffusion of innovation. Clayton Christensen showed us in The Innovator’s Dilemma how upstarts can enter an industry with disruptive innovation that creates a new S-Curve and lets them eat the lunch of more established players in their vertical. The challenge for those more established players is to innovate sufficiently so that they don’t become footnotes in history.

    If only innovation were that easy.

    In reality, innovation can be extremely hard work. To begin with, organizations are too often rather hostile towards innovation. Further, individuals within those organizations sometimes lack the right mindset for change. (If you’re interested in learning more, read Why Innovation Fails.)

    So how do you work around these problems in order to find the disruptive innovation that is right for your organization? As far as the legal industry is concerned, we don’t have the luxury of waiting until the stars are aligned. We need answers fast. It’s time for a Law Firm Hackathon.

    What’s a Hackathon?

    Hackathon is a portmanteau of hack + marathon, and is used to describe a brief, intense period of hands-on collaboration to solve a specific problem. Invented in the world of software development, hackathons initially were used to develop usable code by pooling the efforts of many over the course of a short period (e.g., a day, a weekend, or a week). Since then, hackathons have been used to re-imagine everything from a better New York City government website to social justice in Africa to the world’s sanitation crisis to improved management practices and reinventing business itself.

    Here are some key elements of a hackathon:

    • Issue an open invitation so that you involve people who might otherwise be trapped in organizational silos — this event has to be more than the same old folks talking about the same old things
    • Frame the problem clearly at the beginning of the hackathon
    • Be sure to provide for creature comforts — food, drink and work space

    The critical thing is to move past brainstorming to creating a workable prototype within the time period of the hackathon. The result need not be a final product. However, it should be something tangible or concrete on which you can build.

    How to do a Law Firm Hackathon

    • Read Late Night Pizza: Extending Hackathons Beyond Technology (see the “hackathon-in-a-box” materials)
    • Recruit widely from across the firm, but ensure that the firm’s senior leadership participates fully
    • Follow the good advice from the Mix Management Hackathon:
      • Be radical — the hack should make a discernible difference in your firm
      • Be practical — the hack should be easy to implement
      • Be simple — if the hack is too complicated, it won’t gain traction
    • When the hackathon is over, don’t waste time before you implement the winning hacks. In the words of Frans Johansson, the key is to “start with the smallest executable step.”

    Start planning your law firm hackathon now. Time is running out. As Bruce MacEwen says: “We have no idea yet what BigLaw will look like in the future, and the only way to find out is to invent that future.”

    **************************

    Here is some additional reading regarding hackathons:

    [Photo Credit: Scott Beale]

    2 Comments
  • fresh and direct We’re hosting a dinner party on Friday night.  To maximize our chances of delivering a delicious meal, I’ve already determined the menu and drafted a work plan that will allow us to prepare ahead for the dinner. We are organized!

    However, there is a small potential problem. Since I’m fully committed with work and extra-curricular activities this week, I don’t actually have time to go to the grocery store before our dinner party. Not to worry, we’ve got FreshDirect. Those of you who don’t live in New York City may not be familiar with this amazing gift to working folks.  FreshDirect has a fabulous website that offers food, drink, household items and recipes.  All I have to do is place my order and choose a delivery time.  Then I simply sit back until the food arrives almost magically at my door.

    While the transaction may seem like a magic trick to me, The New York Times published an infographic that shows exactly what’s involved in delivering a food order placed with FreshDirect. To be honest, my initial reaction upon seeing the infographic was amazement that the process was so complicated. My second reaction was profound relief. The infographic illustrates the degree to which FreshDirect has analyzed its business and set up its processes to ensure that its service levels keep customers like me delighted.

    Taking a page out of Freshdirect’s book, here’s the challenge for you: would your law firm be able to generate a comparable infographic that shows with reasonable accuracy all the steps required to deliver services at levels that consistently delight your clients?

    Try it. You might be stunned to discover how little you actually know about how your business really operates.

    [Photo Credit: Adrian Duckett]

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  • The speakers for this session are John Alber (Partner, Bryan Cave), Jim Jones (Senior Fellow, Georgetown University Law Center and Principal, Legal Management Resources) and Michael Mills (CEO, Neota Logic).

    [These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association's 2012 Conference 2012. Since I'm publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I've made any editorial comments, I've shown those in brackets.]

    NOTES:

    • What’s the Fundamental Change?.According to Jim Jones, in the last 4-5 years, the legal market has changed from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market. This means that while law firms used to be able to set the terms, today it’s the client that sets the terms. Further, there was a great deal of stability in the relationships between law firm and client. While law firms may struggle with this change, it’s reality. As part of this change, risk has shifted from the client to their law firms, especially through alternative fee arrangements. The breadth and depth of these changes are enormous. John Alber reminded us that we should learn our lessons from other industries that have undergone similarly deep changes. One example he gave was that of the trucking industry. He described them as having shifted from transportation companies to information companies with trucks.
    • Lawyers are being Disintermediated. Jim Jones noted that as escoteric legal information becomes widely available, lawyers lose their role as guardians of that information. Therefore, they can’t charge for the information or rely on its existence to solidify a client relationship. Similarly, other organizations are finding ways to provide services that formerly were the exclusive purview of lawyers. Michael Mills observed that these organizations are not only competitors, but co-creators of legal services. The problem is that law firms and law firm technology are really not designed to “play nicely with others.”
    • The Tipping Point. As far as Jim Jones is concerned, it’s hard to predict a tipping point because it is easier to identify in retrospect. Events build on each other and then suddenly there is enough change to reach a tipping point. Michael Mills says that lawyers, like all humans, are inertial. However, if look around you carefully, you can find enough examples of change that you can get a glimpse of the tipping point.
    • What’s the Challenge for Lawyers & Technologists?. Mills and Jones agreed that the key is to focus on those aspects of the practice of law that are most prized by lawyers. For example, many lawyers want to be free to practice law, to problem solve, to help clients. If technologists can find ways to make the real business of lawyering (counseling, problem-solving, strategizing) better and more enjoyable (despite the current drive to AFAs, project management, etc.), then they will have made a huge contribution.
    • Law Firms Are No Longer Monolithic. Law firms are becoming a collection of activities. And each of these activities have different requirements, risks and economic return. Accordingly, it’s important to tailor a matter so that the activities involved closely match the client’s expectations and those activities are priced in order to make them economical for the client AND the law firm. Further, there is a role for technologists to play. In addition to providing the basic platform technologies (e.g., email, word processing, etc.), technologists also need to provide specially-tailored tools that meet specific client needs.This a real opportunity for technologists.
    • Disaggregation of Services. Michael Mills warned the audience that just as clients have been disaggregating legal services and asking legal process outsourcers to provide services that formerly were provided solely by law firms, we should expect that technologists within law firms be prepared to outsource services to external providers if that makes more sense.
    • Advice to Young Lawyers & Technologists. Jim Jones said he is asked to advise lots of law students and he always tells them that this is a great time to enter the profession because the turmoil presents so many opportunities. Further, as lawyers get better at focsing on core, high-value legal services, they should find more professional satisfaction in their work. Michael Mills also encouraged young lawyers to be far more tech-savvy than they are. This means they need to know more than how to operate their smartphone or move their thumbs quickly while texting. Instead, they should get smarter about the technology that automates business processes and workflow, understand databases, etc. Finally, John Alber noted that technologists should look for ways to connect their work directly to the business. This means understanding what drives the business and how it operates. It may mean getting an MBA or some other business training. [To be honest business-savvy is critical for lawyers too.]
    1 Comment
  • Bruce MacEwen needs no introduction. He is known world wide for his incisive commentary on law firm economics, the business of law and law firm strategy. You can find his thought-provoking posts at Adam Smith, Esq.

    [These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association's 2012 Conference 2012. Since I'm publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I've made any editorial comments, I've shown those in brackets.]

    NOTES:

    • What Does ROI Mean?. It depends on what approach you use: present discounted value (PDV), net present value (NPV), internal rate of return (IRR).
    • What’s the Problem With Them?. They are too easy to manipulate, we often forget what they are, they have a false precision to them and they don’t always tell us what we think they do.
    • How to manipulate ROI?. Smooth out the numbers, display them on a pretty graph, then print it on thick glossy paper — in color.
    • Why do we waste time on ROI?. Lawyers like evidence. Besides which, lawyers feel that asking about ROI is the responsible thing to do. Unfortunately, most of them do not have a grasp of basic economics and many are “allergic to numbers.” As a result, they aren’t always in the best position to understand the ROI implications. Nonetheless, if they ask for an ROI, they can’t later be faulted for failing to consider ROI.
    • False Precision. Since ROI is expressed numerically, it seems more concrete and reliable. Yet we forget that ROI by itself is meaningless without context. While the numbers remain, we all too often tend to forget the context. As a result, the sense of precision is fleeting at best.
    • There are Three Kinds of Investments. Investments that involve unknowns; investments that are one-of-a-kind events; investments that are structural and make other things possible. Few conventional projects involve complete unknowns. With one-of-a-kind events, no one can predict outcomes, so it’s very hard to talk sensibly about ROI. With structural investments (e.g., high speed rail), while the project itself may not always pay for itself, chances are that it will allow other positive returns to arise. (In his example, there has been a great deal of real estate development around rail lines or extra tall buildings near New York City express subway stops.)
    • If not ROI, then what’s a better way to analyze IT projects? First ask if the proposed project is plausible. Then, ask if it would make a difference. This second question introduces common sense into your deliberations. It forces you to consider your business context and the impact of the proposed project on the top line or bottom line. At the end of the day, the greater the positive impact on the top or bottom line, the better the project and the easier it should be to win support.
    1 Comment
  • At every ILTA conference the chief information officers of the 100 largest global law firms have a day-long meeting. This session provides a recap for those of us who were unable to attend the full day session.

    Speakers: Gareth Ash (CIO, Allen & Overy), Ash Banerjee (CIO, WilmerHale), Don Jaycox (CIO, DLA Piper), Andy Jurczyk (CIO, Seyfarth Shaw). Marcia Stein helped organize the G100 event.

    [These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association's 2012 Conference 2012. Since I'm publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I've made any editorial comments, I've shown those in brackets.]

    NOTES:

    • Jim Jones Presentation. Jim Jones (from the Hildebrandt Institute) often is asked to provide a strategic industry perspective to managing partners. He came to the G100 session to share the information he is providing to firm management. Key points: 2012 could be tougher than 2009; the outlook for the next 2 years is not great. Jones reminded the CIOs that this is not just about economic pressures. There are other factors coming into play such as commoditization, enabling technologies, new service providers, globalization. The key is to understand that our economic model is fundamentally unstable. Law firms will not be able to rely on year over year rate increases in order to meet revenue goals. Further, demand for legal services has basically been flat since the market downturn. In Jones’ view, we are firmly in a buyer’s market. Therefore, clients are in a position to make demands on law firms. This means that law firms will have to compete for business on the basis of costs, efficiency and results rather than just on reputation.
    • Implications of Jim Jones’ Presentation. (1) Law firms need to be serious about operating as a business. This means they need to focus on efficiency and effectiveness, addressing productivity issues as soon as possible. (2) Will declines in law school enrollment make it more expensive to find and hire good associates?
    • How Technology can Transform Law Firms FAcing Changing Pricing Models. (1) multiple pricing and billing systems; (2) systems for tracking profitability on a matter basis; (3) user-friendly interfaces allowing partners to perform sensitivity analysis on different pricing strategies; (4) technical support to assist partners in analyzing and setting pricing options; (5) systems enabling fims to respond quickly and efficiently to competitive proposal requests.
    • Implications for the CIO. Technology will increasingly “commoditize” many areas of legal practice, including some complex and high value ones. This means that lawyers will change. Since information is increasingly becoming freely available, clients will pay a premium only for expertize and superior judgment.
    • Gartner Discussion. Data protection and security are key. Law firms need to gather and dig deeper into the data with analytics. There is an increasing push to outsourcing in order to control costs. However, that may limit career opportunities within the IT department. It also can mean that the IT department cannot respond as nimbly if they have to manage lots of external providers. On the flip side, having resources in the cloud can provide some flexibility. Just be sure that you don’t outsource any function that comprises your agility and ability to respond.
    • Data Security. A poll of the G100 CIOs revealed that relatively few had security specialists on their staff. All understood that in addition to technical controls, the key is to increase security awareness among attorneys. Several firms recommended data security training for lawyers based on resources from the SANS Institute entitled “Securing the Human.”
    • What do CIOs want to learn more about?. At the G100 session, they crowdsourced the following topics: (1) How are CIOs measured? What KPIs are used? (2) What are the risks of benchmarking? One big issue is that the benchmarking reports may not allocate the data exactly like your firm does. For example, do network costs show up in operational costs or in IT costs? You have to understand the benchmarking reports before you rely on them for your analysis and planning. (3) How to handle PWC/Citi Reports? Handle with care! It’s very important to key educating the partnership so they understand what contributes to cost and how new projects add value.
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  • We’d like to think that our advanced education protects us from the dangers of irrationality, but for too many of us that is a delusion. The reality is that unless you are keenly aware of how you make decisions, you may well find that your seemingly logical decisions are riddled with unconscious errors. As modern psychology is demonstrating, most individuals know surprisingly little about what happens in the space between our ears. Now, before you start protesting that you’re smarter than the average bear (and, therefore, fully capable of avoiding irrationality), consider how often you’ve observed irrational decision making on the part of others. It happens all the time.

    It truly is easier to see the speck in another person’s eye than the log in your own eye.

    If individual decision making is rife with irrationality, what happens when a group of people make decisions on behalf of an organization? Unless they are very careful, they are liable to achieve collectively an even greater degree of irrationality than an individual acting alone.

    So what’s the cure? I’m so glad you asked.

    Come to the ILTA conference on Thursday, August 30, at 3:30pm (in Maryland B) to hear an entertaining and thought-provoking discussion about common cognitive traps into which people tend to fall and learn how we can move our decision making process out of the realm of the unconscious and sometimes irrational to the more rigorous, deliberate and rational. Along the way, we’ll discuss how data (whether it be Big Data or little data) can help light the path to more rational decision making.

    The name of this session is “Overcoming Irrationality: Improve Decision-Making and Client Service with Strategic Uses of Data” [Hashtag: #INFO6]. The panelists for this session are the name partners of that “preeminent” law firm: Abraham Friedmann Mills & Rovner LLP. Those of you who have attended recent ILTA conferences will know that this will be the third year in which this firm has held a partners meeting in conjunction with the ILTA conference. In prior years, these partners have discussed the implications of two radically different law firm business models (i.e., law factory vs. bet-the-farm practices) and how to future-proof your law firm. This year they will get to heart of why so many law firm organizational decisions are fundamentally irrational. They also plan to give examples of how other industries have used data to make more rational decisions.

    As in prior years, we expect a lively discussion with the audience. So come prepared to jettison your preconceptions and jump into the conversation.

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  • Robot baby quilt top In the midst of a lively, thoughtful discussion, one of my friends and colleagues asked for a moment’s silence to take note of the fact that Mary Abraham had just endorsed automation over human action. This led to gales of laughter. Why? Because over the years I’ve become reasonably well-known in legal knowledge management circles for repeatedly reminding people that technology won’t solve every problem (note the banner of this blog) and that we might get further if we spent at least as much time and attention on people and processes as we do on the technology.

    That remains my position, but with time and experience it has become slightly more nuanced. While I still don’t think that technology is the silver bullet, I also don’t believe that simply throwing more people at a problem is the best path to a solution either. Further, given the advances in technology today, it could arguably be abusive to humans NOT to adopt appropriate technology.

    Not convinced? Think about the many processes within law firms that to this day still are not automated. They haven’t been studied, standardized or streamlined to improve efficiency and efficacy.  Rather they depend on a variety of people operating consistently at their personal best to ensure good results. In fairness, these folks have probably been doing a good job for many years.  But what if someone becomes ill or disengaged? What if they retire?  Where’s the safety in this system? There’s also the problem that you’re asking human beings to do work that a properly equipped machine could do. How demoralizing is that?

    In the 1940s, Isaac Asimov introduced the Three Laws of Robotics (see video below). The first of these laws was:

    A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

    It’s helpful that he identified this way to reduce the likelihood that a robot might harm a human. However, that still leaves the human race very much at risk of harm from members of its own species.  With this in mind, consider what would change if law firm IT departments and KM departments adopted the following variant of the first law of robotics:

    An IT department or KM department may not injure a human being, or through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

    What would the practical implications of this be?

    • We would have to spend much more time upfront considering user interface and user experience.
    • We would have to pay closer attention to HelpDesk inquiries and customer complaints — what keeps going wrong?
    • We would have to think harder about the “unintended consequences” (or, as Bruce MacEwen writing at Adam Smith Esq states more accurately, the “unanticipated consequences“) of the innovations we introduce.
    • We would have to stop asking our colleagues and our own staff to do things that more properly should be done by machines.
    • We would have to be willing to review and revise what we’re doing to ensure the humans we serve are not harmed.

    As you think about your work and its consequences, can you honestly say that it does not harm humans? If not, what will you change?

    [Hat tip to Michael Mills of Neota Logic for reminding me of Asimov's Three Laws.]

    [Photo Credit: Chelsea Wa]

    2 Comments
  • What are the key factors that lead to a successful long-term relationship between corporate clients and their outside counsel? LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell (in association with The Global Legal Post) have just released a report of a 2012 survey of in-house counsel in Western Europe that seeks to answer that question. The report examines the following issues:
    • Selection factors,  reasons for reviews of panel firms, and the frequency of those reviews.
    • Factors influencing the retention of firms for future work.
    • Top reasons for the removal of firms from preferred panels/lists.
    • Approach taken by in-house counsel to evaluate law firm performance and common themes in feedback.
    • Value-adding elements of relationships.

    Of the 219 in-house lawyers who participated across 16 countries in Western Europe, the results were very clear:

    • To be successful, a law firm must demonstrate that it understands its client’s business needs.
    • A guaranteed way to end a client relationship prematurely is to provide poor service.
    • Cost is a factor, but it can be outweighed by the high quality of the firm’s service and the extent to which the firm demonstrates its understanding of client needs.
    • Clients appreciate value-added services such as free training seminars and lawyer secondments.

    Be a Trusted Advisor

    Clearly, knowing the law is necessary but not sufficient. Clients aren’t looking for an erudite legal lecture, they want the assurance that you understand their situation and have the legal sophistication to apply the law appropriately to their facts.  Beyond that, clients want to know that your understanding of their business is so deep that you can anticipate their needs and be active in helping manage their legal exposure. In other words, your client wants you to be a trusted advisor, not just a technician for hire.

    How can KM help deliver what the clients want?

    If your knowledge management program has focused primarily on legal documents thus far, now would be a good time to think about adding some current awareness programs.  In addition, consider partnering with library and training professionals to provide opportunities for lawyers to learn more deeply about client industries: What are the economic drivers? What are the pressures? Where are the opportunities? Look for ways to passively capture KM resources from these training programs and from the related conversations within client service teams.

    Focus on Feedback

    Lawyers are notoriously thin-skinned, so they sometimes shy away from asking directly about client expectations and satisfaction. As a result, they can find it difficult at times to understand how best to serve their clients. The report addresses this issue squarely:

    Most respondents were also very happy to participate in feedback programmes conducted by their law firms, although less than half had received an invitation to provide this. However, law firms appear to be even less committed to using customer insights to help strengthen their relationship. Only 28% of survey respondents said that their law firms came back to them to share the results and communicate improvements or changes that would be made as a result of feedback received.

    Thanks to this report, we now have some insight into exactly what clients are looking for.  Although the report relates to a study of in-house counsel in Western Europe, I have a hard time believing that their North American counterparts have materially different expectations of their lawyers. Put another way, I think a North American law firm would be foolish to disregard these results.

    The client has spoken.  The rest is up to us.

     

    5 Comments
  • data slide What dataset informs your mindset? That’s the question that Dr. Hans Rosling would ask you if he could. When he probed this issue with his university students in Sweden, he discovered that some of their views in the 21st century were based on a dataset that reflected the reality of … the 1950s.  In fact, their responses to his questions were so bad that he said that chimpanzees could do better. (Apparently chimps are able to get the answer right 50% of the time.)

    Dr. Rosling is a Swedish professor of public health who has become famous for his ability to take dry statistics and convey them in a clear and compelling fashion.  Along the way, he has been dispelling many of the myths that inform our mindset.  He challenged a US State Department audience in 2009 with the following words:  ”Does your mindset correspond to my dataset? If not, one or the other needs upgrading….” The unspoken premise was that his dataset should trump the flawed mindset of anyone who does not have a fact-based view of the world.

    Building a Fact-Based Worldview

    If you go the website of Gapminder, the organization Dr. Rosling co-founded, you’ll find the following appeal:

    Gapminder is a non-profit foundation based in Stockholm. Our goal is to replace devastating myths with a fact-based worldview. Our method is to make data easy to understand. We are dedicated to innovate and spread new methods to make global development understandable, free of charge, without advertising. We want to let teachers, journalists and everyone else continue to freely use our tools, videos and presentations.

    Your contribution will help us in our efforts to explain how the world is changing. Your generosity will strengthen our independence.

    Help us achieve a fact-based understanding of the world. Support our work by making a donation today.

    As I read the appeal, I found myself wishing that the legal industry had a Gapminder-like organization to help us move from myth to a fact-based worldview. What data is your firm collecting? Do the data have integrity? Do you have capable people who can analyze that data and communicate what’s meaningful? Or are your firm leaders making decisions that reflect their favorite myths?

    Ron Friedmann has a recommendation for law firms intent on developing a fact-based worldview:  ”Law firms should collect data to measure the multiple aspects of `service delivery’ and the `client experience’.” If you were to follow Ron’s recommendation, what would that mean for your firm?  What would you count? What would matter? I suspect you’re going to have look far past billable hours and realization rates to examine the profitability of matters and individual lawyers. What about measuring the rate at which lawyers of your firm innovate? Or the rate at which they convert business development opportunities into sustainable income streams? How do you measure client engagement and client satisfaction? How do you measure the contributions of law firm administrative departments? (In terms of dollars under budget? Or in terms of value delivered to clients?) And, how do you measure the contribution of each person in your firm towards the health and welfare of the firm?

    There are many opportunities for us to learn more about our business through the careful gathering and analysis of data. However, I don’t mean to minimize the challenge.  Most folks in law firms are not trained statisticians. We don’t always know what to count or understand the problems implicit in how we collect and analyze what little data we have.This is an area in which our entire industry could benefit from some training and some standardized approaches.

    What dataset informs the mindset of your law firm leaders? That’s the question Dr. Hans Rosling would ask them if he could.  But, since he can’t, shouldn’t you?

    [Photo Credit: Tom Woodward]

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  • 4 Faces Buddha Lawyers have many special gifts, but one of the most vexing is the ability to “issue spot.” They are trained to take a proposition in both hands and then turn it upside down and inside out until they have identified all the potential problems.  This is hugely helpful to a client who is trying to weigh the risks and benefits of a proposed business transaction.  However, this tendency can be hugely challenging for IT and knowledge management personnel who are trying to persuade a lawyer to adopt a new tool or a new way of working.

    Now don’t get me wrong — some of my best friends are lawyers.  In fact, I’m a lawyer. Even so, I must admit that lawyers can be a little negative from time to time.

    But lawyers are not the only ones.  Tony Schwartz has observed that the negativity bias is something that all humans share and it can lead us to wallow in the slough of despond:

    Because human beings have a strong “negativity bias,” we pay more attention to our bad feelings than to our good ones. It once clearly served our survival to be vigilant about what might go wrong and that instinct persists. Today, it may serve to buffer us from disappointment, but it also promotes disproportionate and destructive discontent. The simple question “What’s going right?” provides ballast in tough times.

    So What’s Going Right?

    This can be the best question to ask when you are seeking feedback on new technology or a new law firm knowledge management initiative.  It can change the energy in the room and draw out the truly constructive comments.  Best of all, it encourages the lawyers involved to use their considerable brainpower to focus on opportunities for growth rather than obsessing about potential problems that may (or may not) stop a project dead in its tracks.

    Focusing on the positive is not intended to sidestep reality or allow you to bury your head in the sand.  Its purpose is not denial.  Rather, its purpose is to elicit feedback at an early stage — before the tool or resource is so fully baked that it cannot be adjusted.  Asking about what’s going right can help the anxious stop obsessing about the impossible goal of perfection and start focusing on what’s necessary and possible.

    If you want to be agile, if you want to innovate, start asking about what’s going right.  You might be pleasantly surprised by what you learn.

    [Photo Credit: Manuel Bahamondez]

     

    2 Comments