Lisa Bodell Keynote: Why is Change so Hard? #ILTACON

Session Title and Description: Kill the Company: End the Status Quo, Start an Innovation Revolution

What holds you back from better innovating, every day? In too many organizations, we’re stuck in the land of status quo. We’ve forgotten how to think differently, and lack the simple tools to solve problems creatively. The very structures put in place to help organizations grow are now holding us back. This keynote is an inspirational call to arms: to start a revolution in how we think and how we work.

Speaker: Lisa Bodell, Founder and CEO of futurethink

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 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.]


  • How to detect change?  How do you keep your antennae up to detect signals of change so you can respond to possible, probable, and preferable scenarios.
  • What we say do and what we actually do are different. We can learn a lot from the gap. Wearables can track mood and actual activity. The challenge is to understand how this affects the customer and employee experience. Equally challenging: what concerns does this raise?
  • “The future is not who you ARE. The future is who you are BECOMING.”  If you are forward-looking you can influence the future rather than have it inflicted on you.
  • Partnerships are Key. Partner with the people who scare you the most. That partnership will force you into new ways of thinking and doing.
  • Practice Proactive Obsolescence. Palgrave Macmillan has set up a venture fund to invest in businesses that will put old-school publishing out of business. This means that they get in on the ground floor of their replacements.
  •  Why don’t we respond to change? Complexity & complacency. Most people spend the bulk of their days at work in meetings and doing email. (This is not inspiring.) It drives them to their to-do lists, it focuses them on the mundane.  Then they slide into complacency. These people cannot think about the future, they cannot think about change.
  • What do we value? What do we reward?
    • More vs Less
    • Doing vs Thinking
    • Internal vs External
  • “Thinking is a Daring Act.”  It requires alone time and quiet time.
    • The brain is an incredible organ. It starts working from the moment you wake up and doesn’t stop until you enter your office!
  • How open to change is your organization? Count how many times you can answer yes to the following questions:
    • People in our organization actively push the boundaries of what’s seemingly possible and apply critical thinking to all parts of our work
    • Our employees are comfortable asking provocative and sometimes unsettling questions to stretch thinking
    • When faced with challenges, our people can think on their feet and nimbly change direction
    • Our employees do not easily give up their ides when encountering adversity, and generally see them through
    • We’re constantly looking forward to the next 5-10 years, and actively seek solutions on how to stay ahead
    • We purposefully hire people with diverse backgrounds and create project teams with a variety of disciplines and experiences.
    • We look at what other industries adjacent or unrelated to ours are doing. We apply their best practices to our work.
    • We always encourage people to eliminate redundancies, rules, and processes that create complexity, so they can focus on more important work.
    • How many times could you answer Yes?
      • 1-2  = status quo
      • 3-5 = risk taker
      • 6-8 = change maker
  • Your job as a leader is to reduce the friction.  This means eliminating the hurdles (e.g., processes, assumptions, practices) that stop your team from doing great work.
  • The key is to ask killer QUESTIONS. In earlier times, the focus was on finding the right answer. However, today you can find the answer to any question. (Google has an answer to any questions.) The key is to ask the RIGHT question.
  • Kill Stupid Rules. Focus on your sphere of control. (But don’t touch rules that are in place to ensure regulatory compliance.) Ask your team: what two stupid rules we should eliminate? They will show you the things that get in their way and slow them down.
  • Empower Decision-Making. Be willing to let your team make decisions. Support the decisions they make. And then find useful things to do with your new-found free time.
  • How to fix your focus?
    • Ask yourself and your team to create a list of their Typical Tasks
    • Then ask them to strike out the things on that list that are a waste of time
    • Next, ask them to create a list of Desired Work. Then strategize with them on how to shift their focus to the work that actually expands opportunity for themselves and their organization.
  • Concrete ways to gain more time
    • Kill stupid meetings
    • change the frequency of meetings
    • NNTR = type “no need to respond” in the subject line or body of an email. This will reduce the number of unnecessary emails.
    • “Cut the crap committee” = this volunteer committee identifies things that can be eliminated so everyone can focus on the things that matter.
  • You can kill stupid rules. You can kill stupid meetings. You CANNOT kill stupid people.