Constructive Destruction

A commentator on the economy described our current travails as “constructive destruction.” Clearly this optimist believes that good will come out of our economic troubles. In some ways, this is not dissimilar to the fertilizing benefits of a forest fire. Short term pain for long term gain.

Since law firms are so dependent on market forces, it is a rare firm that can ignore the economic turmoil around it and continue with business as usual. For law firm knowledge management departments, there will undoubtedly be a period of retrenchment as everyone tries to hold the line on budgets until we have more clarity about the direction of the economy. This gives law firm knowledge managers a couple of choices: you can grit your teeth and trim where you think you’ll feel the least pain OR you can take the opportunity to engage in a little constructive destruction.

Constructive destruction, in this context, means identifying programs that may be working decently, but not optimally. Consider what would be required to get them to optimal operations. And then consider whether that is an investment worth making, regardless of current economic conditions. If the answer is yes, make the investment. If the answer is no, kill the program. That’s the destruction part of constructive destruction.

The harder part of constructive destruction comes with being constructive. Here are a few ideas to get you pointed in the right direction:

1. Before you destroy a program, make sure you’ve milked it for all the learning it can offer. There’s absolutely no need to repeat your mistakes.

2. Once you’ve destroyed a program, be sure to redeploy the newly-free resources to achieve something better. Don’t let them just lie around.

Painful though it may be, constructive destruction is an approach used regularly by Mother Nature and, it appears, by market forces. Try applying it to your KM program and see what benefits accrue.

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