Wilkinson Keynote: Entrepreneurial Skills for Knowledge Sharing #KMWorld

KMWlogo_Stacked_Session Description:

Sharing knowledge for enterprise success requires entrepreneurial skills, new ways of thinking and operating, continuous learning, and change. There are many new tools available to help, but it is the people and the culture of an organization that determines its ultimate success. Wilkinson interviewed 200 of today’s top entrepreneurs, including the founders of Airbnb, LinkedIn, eBay, PayPal, Yelp, Dropbox, Tesla Motors, SpaceX, Chipotle, Under Armour, Spanx, Jetblue, and Revolution Foods, to distill what it takes to go from startup to scale in our rapidly changing economy. As leaders reinvent their approaches to digital transformation for organization survival in this economy, they can learn these fundamental skills, practice them, and pass them on. Join our accomplished researcher and speaker as she shares her framework and provides ways to master the skills that underlie entrepreneurial success.

Speaker: Amy Wilkinson, Founder & CEO, Ingenuity and Lecturer at Stanford Graduate School of Business; Author, The Creator’s Code: Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs

[These are my notes from the KMWorld 2018 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so 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.]


  • Find the Gaps.
    • Be curious:
      • children ask 100 questions per day; adults ask 2-3 questions per day. This is due, in part,  to our development of expertise, which leads us to create our own silos. This, in turn, becomes our Achilles heel that stops us from becoming innovators and entrepreneurs.
    • Be an architect:
      • Look for the open space: find a green field on which to build.
        • Elon Musk — see a problem and then go back to first principles to solve it. He saw that space shuttles were like airplanes that were thrown away after every flight. He thought this made no sense. So he started SpaceX to figure out how to make cheaper, reusable shuttle.
      • Solve a problem for yourself and then scale the solution for others.
        • Sara Blakely — she solved the pantyhose/underwear problem for herself. Because she was the first woman to tackle this problem, she had a real challenge convincing the men in the industry. So she did it herself: she taught herself how to file a patent application, her mother (an artist) drew the schematic. Blakely kept going until she found a manufacturer with daughters who was willing to listen. She persisted.
    • Be an integrator:
      • Look for opportunities for innovation at the intersection of disciplines, industries, markets.
      • Chipotle: the founder was a classically trained chef. He wanted to create fast meals from fresh food. So he mashed together his classical culinary training with the fast food process. This created a restaurant at which a chef would be willing to eat.
  • Drive for Daylight. In this fast-moving world, act as if you are in a race car. You have to focus on the horizon, not on what is right in front of us. Typically, most businesses focus on what is right around them or, worse still, they focus on the rearview mirror.
    • Avoid Nostalga: you can’t be nostalgic about the past  — especially if you’ve had tremendous success. Netflix had big success with DVD by mail but overcome customer protests to move from that to streaming.
    • Fire yourself: Andy Grove at Intel used to talk about the importance of “firing yourself.” They asked themselves (when they thought they might be fired becuase of the poor performance of their business), what would our successor do? The answer was to get out of the old business and then move into the microprocessor business. This led to extraordinary growth.
    • Be prepared to cannibalize your own products — Apple does this time after time.
    • Focus on “to go” rather than “to date.” This keep your focus forward — on the problem you need to solve, on the product you need to ship. This allows you to meet your near-term goals.
  • Fly the OODA Loop. Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.
    • Eventhough the Russians had better fighter planes, the American air force has maintained
    • Paypal: they merged two businesses and then went through 6 different business models in 18 months.
    • Paypal Mafia: then after they sold PayPal to eBay, they all tried new ventures and have been successful.
      • Jeremy Stoppelman: The first thing you try likely will not work. So look for a “counterintuitive blip of data” that could point to a new, more profitable path.
      • Always have a wingman: this is someone who will question your assumptions and help improve your thinking
    • Startups view business as a form of intellectual debate. This enable fast action. In a large organization, people aim for consensus. However, this can be too slow in a fast-moving world.
  • Fail Wisely. This goes beyond failing fast. Have a failure ratio (e.g., 1/10 things I try won’t work or 1/3 things I try won’t work.) The key is NOT to aim for zero. This means that you are aiming for perfection, which will shut down your innovation and risk-taking.
    • Place small bets:  don’t put all your money on one bet. Place small bets on several opportunities.
      • Stella & Dot: their ratio is 1/3. She counts on her team to make fast decisions on new products: “love it or lose it”
    • Titanic Example: You know you have a catastrophic problem (e.g., you’ve hit an iceberg). You know how many people you have and you know how many lifeboats you’ve got. What do you do?
      • Reframe the problem: switch from saving the ship to saving lives. Then you use the lifeboats as ferries to move people from the ship to the iceberg where they can stay until rescue boats arrive.
      • Repurpose what you’ve got: Look for alternatives that can function like life boats (e.g., anything that floats will work — tables, doors, etc.)
  • Network Minds. We need to focus on cognitive diversity, not just visible diversity. The goal is to harness different points of view and then build on that.
    • IDEO Approach: use space
    • Amazon’s two-pie rule: they want folks to work in teams — but small teams that can be fed by two pizzas. Then they get to know each other and can get things done.
  • Gift Small Goods. Provide small kindnesses to others. Do five-minute favors. This helps amplify your reputation because of connectivity. Then information, opportunities come to you.
    • Generosity enhances productivity — Bob Langer at MIT is always trying to amplify the work of his students in their drive to ending human suffering. The are regrowing human tissue (including vocal chords for Julie Andrews and Larry Page). They produced the nicotine patch. They have developed many innovative delivery mechanisms for cancer treatment.
    • Focus on the “snuggle for existence.” This will help enormously with the struggle for existence.

Engaging Lawyers, Clients and Vendors to Adopt AI into Workflows

This session focuses on the White & Case LLP Practice Innovation Group and how it engages lawyers, clients, and vendors to adopt AI into workflows.


  • Oz Benamram, Chief Knowledge Officer, White & Case LLP
  • Monet Fauntleroy, Senior Manager, Practice Innovation, White & Case LLP

[These are my notes from the 2018 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  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.]


  • Drivers
    • Improving client service
    • Managing peer pressure
    • Finding global solutions
    • Solving a real problem
    • Engaging associates
  • Current Use Cases
    • Document review (eDiscovery, due diligence)
    • Contract analysis
    • Drafting automation
    • Legal research
    • Matter analytics
  • It takes a LONG time
    • Training the machine typically takes 6 months.
    • In law firms, machine training takes an additional 6 months. There will be a further 6 months if lawyers need to do the training.
  • Learnings
    • The more the lawyers understood what the tool could do the better they could help.
    • Don’t fall into a people-pleasing mode that causes you to stretch the tool to do an extra 20%.
    • Strike the right balance in involving partners in the effort. Sometimes associates are a little closer to the workflow.
    • Create an onboarding process early. Make sure you involve the right people from the vendor (e.g., a success lead)
    • Create appropriate workflows to support the innovation (e.g., can you handle questions through the existing help desk ticketing system?)
  • Innovation
    • When clients say “innovation” they mean “exactly the same, but faster and cheaper.”
    • When KM says innovation, they understand that there is a significant risk of failure.
  • Governance
    • Taxonomy may not be sexy but it is critical for good governance maintenance
  • Awareness
    • External awareness: as a community we should talk to each other and to our communities about the real story behind the tech press releases.
    • Internal awareness: you need to keep making internal presentations about your existing tools and services. This is particularly the case with your AI efforts. The lawyers and clients want to know.
    • Client awareness:
      • bring in exciting speakers and invite clients
      • host ideation days for your clients — this give you insight into client problems and frustrations

Session Description:

Oz Benamram, will walk through the Firm’s Practice Innovation team journey to implement LawGeex, an AI-empowered tool for reviewing contracts. The challenges included introducing a new type of client and use case to the vendor (who was used to dealing with in-house counsel) as well as keeping the legal team excited about the project throughout the vendor selection, training and evaluation phases… not to mention ultimately changing how the team works.


Avoid the Shiny Objects

Avoid the Shiny Objects–  Why the Use Case is More Important than the Technology

Key Takeaways:

  • Be as proactive as possible in a reactive environment.
  • Focus on the goal not on the tool.


  • Scott Rechtschaffen, Chief Knowledge Officer, Shareholder, Littler Mendelson P.C.,
  • Chris Boyd, Chief Knowledge & Talent Officer, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati,
  • Richard E. Robbins, Director of Knowledge Management, Sidley Austin LLP,
  • Anand R. Upadhye, VP of Business Development, Casetext

[These are my notes from the 2018 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  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.]


  • Use Case: A software and engineering term that descibes how a user will use a system to accomplish a goal.
  • Don’t fall for the Buzzwords
    • Don’t be snowed by the slick sales pitch filled with buzzwords
    • Keep your vendors honest — ask them to unpack their sales pitch, explain what their technology really does
    • You and your team will have to drive adoption. Make sure you are ready to make your pitch for this tool with your lawyers. And make sure you are ready to partner with this vendor for a while.
    • The best vendors are not just vendors — they are partners who help you lower costs and improve outcomes.
  • Be Proactive
    • YOU are the one who should define the appropriate use cases
    • YOU should think early about what you should be doing for your firm and what your firm should be doing for its clients.
    • Practice group plans and firm strategy are the best sources for important use cases.
  • Build vs. Buy Decisions
    • These seem to be highly cultural. Some firms really believe that they can do the best job. Other firms say that they are not in the business of creating and maintaining software, they believe others can do it better.
    • Remember that you don’t always use what you have.
    • Once you have identified your use cases and prioritized them, see whether you can use a pre-existing tool. If not, see whether you can buy and then later build, if necessary.
    • Littler has a neither build nor buy option:
      • Their Knowledge Desk required neither a build nor buy decision. They used existing personnel to provide a knowledge concierge service.
    • Wilson Sonsini has a neither build nor buy option:
      • They have created a knowledge base populated by pardon-the-interruption emails. They tweaked Outlook to create an automated outbound/inbound email to collect/distribute questions and answers.
  • Takeaways
    • Before you contact vendors, know what you need to accomplish.
    • Avoid solutions in search of problems at all costs.
    • Hold yourselves accountable for your vendor arrangements. If you haven’t demonstrated adoption, then get out of the contract.
    • Focus relentlessly on the goal, not the tool.
    • Be proactive not reactive.

Session Description:

Avoid the Shiny Objects: Why the Use Case is More Important than the Technology

Law firms and those responsible for driving innovation within have been inundated with pitches and proposals from legal tech companies, particularly start?ups, offering them the latest and greatest solutions to their latest and greatest problems. But what are those problems and how credible are those solutions? Which legal technology solutions are truly valuable and address real?life problems and which are nothing more than concepts, or worse— vaporware that neither exist nor solve actual problems? This lively discussion will assist those responsible for driving innovation within their firms to better understand the importance of identifying their most pressing use?cases before deciding upon a particular legal technology solution. Choosing a technology solution before identifying the use?case will always be like choosing a solution in search of a problem. Law firm innovators are now confronted with a myriad of legal technology solutions and could greatly benefit from a paradigm for helping choose between multiple technology options. In this discussion, panelists will cite specific examples of use?cases and the technology solutions adopted.


Assessing the Value of AI and Other Technology to the Law Firm

This session examines key issues in the approach law firms take to techology projects, whether sexy AI projects or more mundance technology infrastructure projects.


  • Philip Bryce, Global Director of Knowledge Management, Mayer Brown,
  • Kingsley Martin, President & CEO, KMStandards LLC and Chief Contract Scientist, Akorda,
  • Patrick Dundas, KM Associate, Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP, Dean Sonderegger, VP Legal Markets, Innovation, Wolters Kluwer Legal and Regulatory US

[These are my notes from the 2018 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  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.]


  • Comparing Law Firms and Technology

    • Kingsley Martin:
      • Following Susskind, we are supposed to be moving from bespoke to standardized work product.
      • Lawfirms tend to focus on low-volume, high-margin, bespoke work.
      • LegalZoom focuses on the high-volume, low-margin standardized work.
      • Kingsley Martin is focused on the b2b market, where he needs to provide highly efficient work product to businesses and governments. This is a space that most law firms are ignoring
      • Meanwhile, technology is moving from broad-based to sophisticated and nuanced. In other words, moving from standardized to customized.
      • He codes in multiple computer languages, however, he no longer codes. Rather, he trains computers to code as needed. This is the more efficient approach. Machine learning is faster than human learning. Law firms have not figured this out.
  • We operate in a trust model
    • Kingsley Martin:
      • Clients come to us because they trust us. But we don’t have good metrics based on good processes that can validate their trust.
      • We know that we need to move to simpler processes and documents if we want to take full advantage of techonological opportunities. However, there is real resistance to simplification within law firms.
        • This resistance is based on their perception of risk.
        • They believe that a simpler process/document may entail greater risk. However, they do not always have reliable data to support this perception.
        • So it is critical to take a closer look at the true risks involved and then quantify those risks.
        • Then you need to addess those risks. Some firms are moving to insurance/self-insurance models to cover those risks.
  • Prioritizing Projects
    • Phil Bryce
      • How to choose AI solutions?
      • Remember the difference between point solutions and platforms. And keep in mind the critical integration points between your existing technology and the new tools.
        • They must work together seamlessly.
        • Don’t be so enamoured by a new tool that you allow it to create a content silo unconnected to the rest of your tech resources.
      • He uses the classic McKinsey Value vs. Effort 2×2 grid to prioritize projects.
        • He works this grid with his management committee. They have a conversation about the placement of the various projects on the grid and then agree on the final placement of the projects. As part of this conversation, they agree which projects will be done first and which ones likely won’t be done.
        • He works this grid with the partners who supervise practice support lawyers (PSLs) to ensure they are aligned on the PSL’s priorities.
  • How should you choose your tech vendors?
    • Patrick Dundas
      • Most firms choose vendors on the basis of a good demo. However, demos almost always go well. That’s the point!
      • A better approach:
        • Start with a clear and well-articulated understanding of the problem you are trying to solve, as well as the associated requirements.
        • Get a good list of the relevant stakeholders. Understand their specific needs.
        • Be clear about your desired timeline.
        • Ask for RFPs from vendors.
          • Ask them to respond to your matrix of requirements. Their ability to do so appropriately is a good early signal of their ability to work well with you.
        • Evaluate vendor responses
          • How well did they respond?
          • Highlight/flag the responses that distinguish particular vendors
        • Check vendor references — be sure to use a script for these conversations to ensure you cover the key points.
        • Joshua Fireman recommends that you record your demos and your technical deep dives. This will help you remember the details.

Session Description:

In today’s legal tech environment, Knowledge Management professionals have a rich tapestry of tools to choose from to help drive firm success. Each vendor typically will provide ROI calculations as part of the sales pitch, but the onus still sits with the firm to choose wisely in a budget (both me and cost) constrained world.

This panel will explore the technology value chain—from efficiency to outcome to optimization of business processes, the characteristics of each step in the value chain, where different types of solutions fit, and the impact to the firm from different categories of solutions.


What Blockchain Can Teach Legal About Service Models

John Alber believes that law firms are headed to extinction. Drawing from patterns in nature, he sees similar patterns in law firms. He is concerned that there are very few inflection points at which law firms can adapt sufficiently to lead change. He suggests that knowledge management professionals can find a path to useful change by learning from the example of blockchain.

  • John Alber, Practical Futurist, Intitute for the Future of Law Practice.
  • A detailed session description is at the end of this post.

[These are my notes from the 2018 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  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.]


  • How serious is the Extinction possibility?
    • Looking at nature, we see that species die but sometimes leave behind elements that can give rise to new species. In the law, practices evolve and die. Sometimes they die but leave behind elements that can spawn a new practice. Often they die before they can be replaced by vibrant new practices. Without the option of adaptive practices, law firms will die.
    • Document review used to be the sole preserve of law firms. Now LPOs are taking over that business and there is no obvious substitute business for law firms.
    • A big clue about the potential for extinction — look for ways of doing things that have not materially changed for a long time. In Alber’s view, the legal industry’s approach to contracting is exactly this kind of extinction-ready practice.
  • Nick Szabo:
    • Nick Szabo is an earlier mover in blockchain. He is a computer scientist, legal scholar and cryptographer known for his research in digital contracts and digital currency. (ome believe that he is really Santoshi Nakamoto.)
    • He developed the concept of “smart contracts.” He has analyzed deeply what contracts are, how they work, and how they could optimally be digitized.
    • For him, building contracts on blockchain makes the most sense.
  • Benefits of Blockchain-like Tech for Contracting

    • Institutionless: it does not depend on whether we trust the institution (or law firm) involved. It exists viably separate from specific institutions.
    • Collective: moves away bespoke contracting to contracting by a collective consensus. This leads to less variability and more predictability in the contracting process.
    • Rules-based rather than words-based: this makes it easier to digitize the contracts.
    • Simple: we cannot digitize our contracts without first simplifying them.
  • Peter Drucker Wisdom:
    • “In a period of upheaval, such as the one we are living in, change is the norm. … But unless an organization sees that its task is to lead change, that organization … will not survive.”
    • Law firms are ignoring the fact that they need to lead change in the legal industry. They are too focused on the work of today so they seem to ignore the work of tomorrow.
  • How do we get the necessary skills?
    • Think about design-thinking differently. It is a super-skill to acquire.
      • Take a course, do some reading, get smarter about design-thinking.
    • In his view, design-thinking goes beyond the user interface, it goes beyond making things “pretty”.  Its true value is that it helps us understand more deeply the nature of the problem.
    • Once you have a better understanding of the problem, then work to gain influence in your firm so that you can share your understanding and move the firm toward sensible change.
  • KM Professionals Could be Influential
    • We are interdisciplinary so we have a broader view of the problems and possible solutions.
    • However, we need to move beyond thinking of ourselves experts in library sciences. Otherwise, we will not be able to make an impact on our firms.
    • We cannot afford to be passive.
  • Others are innovating while law firms are largely stagnating
    • There are lots of new legaltech vendors and new legal providers that are innovating technology and processes.
    • They are moving at a much faster pace than law firms are.


Session Description:

Blockchain is all the news now in legal. It is said to be transforming trust rela onships in everything from land tles to securities transactions. And smart contracts are the talk of the town. But shouldn’t blockchain also teach us something about what we missed along the way? How we record, transact and enforce agreements has been a constant almost since the inception of the common law. Yet we let the digital age be born and grow to maturity without ever considering that perhaps our paper?bound and extraordinarily inefficient service model for managing agreements might need changing. It took computer scientists to reimagine how to make agreements concerning digital assets. With the digital age exploding around us, what else about the law needs reimagining? Everything?


Turning KM from a Cost Center to a Profit Generator

Mara Nickerson, Meredith Williams-Range, and Evan Shenkman discuss how law firm KM can generate business for law firms. (A more detailed session description is at the end of this post.)

  • Mara Nickerson: Chief Knowledge Officer, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
  • Evan J. Shenkman: Director of Knowledge Management Counsel and Research, Ogletree Deakins
  • Meredith Williams-Range: Chief Knowledge and Client Value Officer, Shearman & Sterling LLP

[These are my notes from the 2018 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  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.]


  • Direct Revenue KM. This involves client-facing tools and services that generate review for the firm.
    • Oslers Subscription service for clients
      • Osler’s AccessPrivacy provides a knowledge hub on privacy matters. The information is organized by topic, mainained by a KM lawyer. Oslers lawyers consider this their own knowledge hub as well.  In addition to the knowledge hub, Oslers organizers a monthly call for subscribers. This allows clients to serve themselves on the easy issue
      • Lessons learned
        • focus on fee-sensitive practice areas
        • be clear upfront about the ROI
        • Be  honest about the total cost of ownership: the cost of development, the cost of maintenance, the cost of recruiting subscribers, etc. And be equally honest about the revenue potential, which may exceed the base subscription costs.
        • Solicit client input from the first stage and keep them involved in the development
    • Ogletree Deakins
      • Their subscription services:
        • Arbitration Agreement builder tool
        • OD Comply: a subscription suite of client services to stay on top of labor &employment law resources and services
        • EEO Advantage Program: an expert and efficient way of handling EEO claims, supported by dashboards
        • Learning Solutions: customized for clients
        • FMLA Edge: helps employers comply with the Family & Medical Leave Act
        • 1-9 Secure: helps clients with immigration matters
      • Lessons Learned:
        • follow the TurboTax model — may it easy to use without training
        • provides dashboards that are easy to read and act on
        • recruit a shareholder champion
        • who need full collaboration with attorneys — they need to be involved throughout the development process
        • you need to spend money to make money
        • be prepared to pull the plug if the product/service is not a success
    • Shearman
      • Don’t start a direct revenue project unless there is a clear market demand for that product/service.
      • Start by looking at where revenue is being lost — a place where there are slim margins and a lot of write-offs is a good candidate for a KM solution.
      • Their subscription Emerging Company Formation App will help increase margin by 10-11% simply by speeding up the process and increasing efficiency.
      • Their international stock benefits work involves high write-offs of associate time. It involves canvassing local counsel for updates in local law. They are using Neota Logic to substantially reduce the time and effort involved in gathering the updates. Then they make the results available through their subscription International Stock Benefits App.
      • The key is to make the product/service once and then sell it one thousand times.
      • Lessons Learned
        • Create the right culture that finds the opportunities and learns how evaluate those opportunities properly.
        • Create a rigorous application development process.
        • Upkeep and support are huge burdens. Partner with good technology providers as much as you can. Don’t assume the entire burden.
      • Market Evaluation Process:
        • Are you going after new market share? (Getting new business from new clients.)
        • Are you going after new wallet share? (Getting more business from existing clients.)
        • Find a way to track all the direct and indirect revenue you are generating
  • Indirect Revenue KM. The number one reason lawyers/law firms are left behind is because of lack of efficiency.

    • Everything we can do to improve efficiency increases client stickiness.
      • Enterprise search
      • High-quality model documents and templates
    • Shearman
      • offers a variety of online services that are loss leaders and intended to create client stickiness.
      • Shearman Merger Matrix — they created an internal application using Neota Logic. It speed up the process and increases revenue opportunities.
    • Ogletree
      • ODConnect: their intranet
      • ODSearch: enterprise search
      • OD Blueprint: their legal project management offering
      • Lessons Learned:
        • these services must be a collaborative effort among a variety of departments. It’s not a solo job for KM.
        • clients are interest in what’s behind the curtain — they want to know how their lawyers work more efficiently
        • attorneys are more willing to share than ever — even subject matter experts are more willing to share
        • cilents are increasingly expecting these tools to be free
    • Oslers
      • Osler Code Detect
        • this idea came from an associate. It analzes the open source code clients are using and identifies potential licensing issues.
          • this tool has generated new business for this innovative associate. (This associate often does hackathons.)
      • Oslers merger notification tool
      • Oslers helps clients map their own processes. The lawyers involved always leave with new business.
  • The staffing model is changing. Even the biggest firms are shifting work away from the billable hour model. So these firms are increasing their focus on efficiency. KM is critical to improving efficiency and reducing write-offs.
  • How to promote law firm KM
    • Get involved in the RFP process. Ensure that KM efficiencies are included in our RFPs.
    • Get involved in the pitch process. When your firm includes you in a client pitch, the firm is making a major statement about the importance of KM within the firm.

Session Description:

Many firms shortsightedly think of KM as a cost center, rather than a revenue generator. This discussion will illustrate different ways that firms have successfully turned the script by using KM to bring in meaningful firm business—both at the pitch stage, and as a revenue-generator with KM client-facing service offerings. Learn how these successes increase KM buy-in internally, help justify KM headcount, and illustrate that KM is a differentiator between firms that have it ? versus firms that do not.

For more information: see Ron Friedman’s post on this session.


Redesigning Law Firm Knowledge Management #ArkKM

Jeffrey S. Rovner is Managing Director for Information, O’Melveny & Myers LLP. Today he is speaking about the next frontier for law firm knowledge management: truly successful adoption.

[These are my notes from the 2018 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  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.]


  • Adoption is the Problem. The elephant in the room for knowledge management is low adoption. Although we offer great tools and services, why don’t our lawyers use them? It’s as if we can’t get through the last mile between our hopes for our wonderful new tools, on the one hand, and our user base, on the other hand.


  • Why does this happen???  Here are some of the perennial problems:
    • The Waterfall of Tears:
      • We introduce new tools / products / services via email, which not everyone reads.
      • We invite them to a training session, which few attend.
      • Those who attend do not remember everything they are taught.
      • Those who attend do not always decide that the new tool / product / service is worth the effort to make the change.
    • The 9X Problem: Whenever you are introducing a new technology, it needs to be a least 9 times better than the current tool. The new user is looking at the delta between their current approach and the effort required to adopt the the new approach.  Most new tools fail this test and so the user falls back on the old and comfortable way of working.
  • What can we learn from Online Shopping?
    • Shopping started out as a series of separate stores and storefronts.
    • Then some retailers such as Amazon focused on aggregration: offering as many products as possible. This required a very long tail that might satisfy customers.
    • Next, online retailers adopted nudging techniques that pushed forward recommendations and even extrapolated from searches done in your browser more generally. Some think this is creepy, but it remains a profitable approach.
  • What is the experience of law firms?
    • Most firms started by creating separate storefronts (e.g., Finance, HR, documents, calendar, practice groups, etc.)
    • Then they moved to aggregation via enterprise search.
    • At O’Melveney, they created a layer above the storefronts called Ommni that lets lawyers find what they need without having to figure out where that information originates. However, this is still a “pull” approach. The lawyer must go hunting.
  • 100% Adoption Requires Nudging.
    • To increase adoption, we need to push our efficiency tools.
    • Why?
      • There will also be some compelling new tool that does not fit nicely within our tidy aggregation approach. So it needs to be pushed.
      • The push approach can help us convey information rather than software. People want the information. They would rather remain oblivious to the new software. They want the results, not the means.
      • The push approach relieves users of the need to master new technology.
  • Omniscient. O’Melveny & Myers has created a new way of delivering information rather than merely software.
    • The first step is to identify “Moments” that are significant and require specific “Information” for success.
    • Next disaggregate that Information from its software source so that it can be bundled in a variety of ways to address the needs of a variety of moments.
    • Then, when a specific moment occurs, send the key information to the people involved — before they even request it.
    • Example: when a new matter opens, Omniscient can find and aggregate useful information such as which lawyers have the best experience and availability to staff the matter. Omniscient then sends this information to the staffing administrators by email.

Session Description:

Whether they have intended to do so or not, law firms have been conducting a 20?year longitudinal study to determine whether their lawyers can share knowledge effectively through software. The results are in, and they are decidedly mixed. That is especially unfortunate because today’s law firm business model increasingly depends on delivering the right information on to the right people at the right moment. The time has come to revisit our basic assumptions and design a better approach.

For more information: see Ron Friedman’s post on this session.


Stop Failing At Failing

With the rise of digital startups, we have become used to hearing about the need to fail fast and fail often. And we have told each other repeatedly that failure is important, failure is necessary, failure is good.

So why do we resist failure?

Because we are not stupid!

The reality is that despite all the cheap talk about the usefulness of failure, few of us find ourselves in organizations that actually put their money where their mouth is. For example, how often does your boss commend you for failing? Or, does your organization’s performance management system regularly reward you for failure?

No? I thought not.

In the absence of a supportive boss and performance management system, why risk your career by failing? Wouldn’t the wiser course be to play it safe, even if it means that you rarely experiment or innovate? After all, curiosity killed the cat!

While being risk-averse may seem like the safer path in the short term, it is a death sentence for your organization over the longer term. Without experimentation, innovation, and a healthy dose of curiosity, everything stagnates — people, processes, and organizations. And, instead of moving ahead or even just keeping up, they simply fall behind.

As Ellen Glasglow wisely observed:

The only difference between a rut and a grave are the dimensions.

So if we want to avoid the deadly rut, what should we do? Stop failing at failing and learn to do it better.

There are reliable techniques that help us understand how to fail in smarter ways and how to use those failures to make ourselves and our organizations better. We have learned the value of safe-to-fail experiments, failure targets, and failure parties. But that is only the beginning. At KMWorld 2018, I’ll be leading a workshop entitled From Failure to Fantastic that explores more techniques we can use to get the indisputable benefits of failure without unduly suffering its negative consequences. These techniques are borrowed from a variety of professions and industries, including medicine and oil and gas.

I hope you will join me at the workshop so that we can help each other stop failing at failing.

[Photo Credit: Makunin]


The Knowledge Transfer Equation

One of the great benefits of teaching is that I get to read some wonderful guidance on many key aspects of knowledge management. As I’ve written before, at the top of my list of books to read over and over again is Working Knowledge by Tom Davenport and Larry Prusak. Inevitably, every time I go back to that KM classic I find something I have never noticed before.

In preparing for one of my recent classes, I spent some time on the chapter in Working Knowledge concerning Knowledge Transfer.  It was a good reminder that all our efforts to capture, collect, and organize content are not an end unto themselves. Rather, they are intended to help us transfer knowledge throughout the organization, thereby increasing the organization’s value.

But how do we transfer knowledge effectively? The answer Davenport & Prusak offer may not be exactly what you were looking for:

The short answer, and the best one, is: hire smart people and let them talk to one another.

But, you say, in busy days (and nights) spent battling exploding email inboxes, who has time for conversation? Davenport & Prusak remind us that “In a knowledge-driven economy, talk is real work.” Arguably, dealing with some of the trivialities in your inbox is not.

If you are skeptical, consider the example of Sematech, a nonprofit consortium that focuses on research and development for the computer chip industry. Davenport & Prusak report that Sematech was successful because it created “organizational and human resources structures devoted to technology transfer.” One way they transferred knowledge was by inviting assignees (i.e., representatives from sponsoring firms) to participate in research at Sematech. Then these assignees carried their new technical knowledge back to their own firms where they could put it to use. In the words of one Sematech technology transfer manager:

We have documents, document databases, an intranet, Web, groupware, you name it. But the assignees and the face-to-face meetings we have are by far the most important channels for transferring knowledge to the member firms.

As you think about how you try to transfer knowledge within your organization, on which channels do you rely? Your SharePoint intranet? Training sessions? Email threads? Practice group meetings?

Once you know what channels you are using, consider this crucial question: how successful is the knowledge transfer? Davenport & Prusak remind us that it is not enough to simply post, publish, or announce information. In fact, even a training session may not be enough. Yes, you have made information available but have you fully transferred it? The answer to that question lies in the following equation offered by Davenport & Prusak:

Transfer = Transmission + Absorption (and Use)

In other words, posting, publishing, or announcing information is the equivalent of transmitting it. Once you have made it available, then you must take additional steps to ensure that this information is absorbed by the recipient. Finally, you need to see how and when they use it. Until the moment of use, you do not have a complete transfer. After all, it is through the use of knowledge that you achieve the goal of knowledge transfer: “to improve an organization’s ability to do things, and therefore increase its value.”

This knowledge transfer formula poses an interesting test of our intranet efforts. How much of the content in your intranet is used, much less re-used? If the answer is not sufficiently high, then it is time to think about how to get out of the knowledge transmission business and into the knowledge transfer business.

I suspect that is where you and your organization intended to be all along.

[Photo Credit: Nick Youngson]



A Lesson for the Modern Workplace and School: Connection Before Content

A few years ago I had the privilege of attending a discussion led by Clayton Christensen on the future of education. As you may know, Christensen is a professor at the Harvard Business School who became famous for his work on disruptive innovation. So it was likely that this discussion would leave us feeling uncomfortable.

Christensen did not disappoint. He asked lots of challenging questions about the true value of higher education as currently constructed. What were residential colleges delivering that so exceeded the educational value of a free MOOC that those colleges could justify charging over $60 thousand or even over $70 thousand per year? And what about graduate schools? In this era of back-breaking student debt, what were they offering that the school of hard knocks could not?

I have been thinking a great deal about these questions since I started teaching in the M.S. in Information & Knowledge Strategy (IKNS) program at Columbia University. And those questions became even more pressing when I became Academic Director on July 1. How do we justify the time, effort, and expense required by our program?

It would take me a while to enumerate all the ways in which the IKNS program provides value so let me focus on one thing that became very clear this past weekend: we provide a laboratory in which our students can learn proven concepts and practices that equip them for effective leadership.

On Wednesday, August 22, our new cohort of students arrived at Columbia University’s Morningside campus for four days of Intensive study (the Intensive). Our original impulse was to stuff them as full of learning as was humanly possible in such a short time. As a practical matter, this would have required lectures from 9:00am – 6:00pm daily. We could do that. But was it the right approach?

Early in our planning, we realized that we needed to rethink our approach. Given that our program is demanding and very hard to complete without collaboration, the key was to spend the Intensive building the capacity of the cohort to collaborate. So we rethought everything. Rather than making them sit through hours and hours of lectures, we first had them develop their own self-awareness and then their knowledge of their teammates. Through a series of carefully designed individual and group exercises, they built an extraordinary level of trust and empathy. Then we could focus on learning collaboratively.

Our bet paid off. Within hours, these new students moved from being strangers to being friends. And, in that capacity, were more than willing to share their own knowledge and experience to help a classmate integrate new concepts and practices. In the process, they all learned an astonishing amount remarkably quickly. Arguably, more than they could have learned sitting passively through a series of well-intended lectures.

Don’t get me wrong. We had formal teaching sessions. But only after they were ready to learn together.

This experience is a timely reminder of an insight Nancy Dixon has shared with several prior IKNS cohorts: Connection before Content.” Building on the work of Peter Block, Dixon observed that in the workplace, we all work better when we know each other and trust each other. But that knowledge and trust should not be left to happenstance. A thoughtful manager can help speed the development of professional relationship and trust through some intentional practices such as ensuring that team members connect (and later reconnect) with each other before diving into the agenda. This creates a foundation of goodwill and understanding that can act as a shock absorber for the necessary creative friction of teamwork.

If “Connection before Content” is true in the physical workplace, it is doubly true in the virtual workplace and in a virtual learning environment such as ours. The capacity to connect enables the capacity to collaborate and the capacity to share knowledge.

Thankfully, our newest cohort demonstrated this past weekend that they are well on their way to developing their capacity to collaborate with their classmates. NOW they are ready to learn in our program and share that learning with their colleagues at work.

All of us will be the better for it.