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My friend David Ackert's blog post, Use Innovation to Outsmart the Competition, urges lawyers to step out of their comfort zones to try something new, while empathizing with the reasons we all hesitate to do so.  One of those reasons is that we may think of innovation as a breakthrough, equivalent to the iPhone, the MRI, the Internet, etc.

Perhaps because the media properly lionizes disruptive innovators such as Steve Jobs, Raymond Vahan Damadian, and Vint Cerf (inventors of the three technologies above), we allow ourselves to think of the word as if it was all in caps, boldface, i.e., INNOVATION. We think we have to come up with something completely disruptive that's never before been attempted, else it's not innovation.

As you see from the graphic at right, high-visibility, disruptive innovation is only one of four types. There are many other ways to make a difference.

Innovation simply means "the application of new solutions that meet new requirements, inarticulate needs, or existing market needs."

For lawyers, one simple application of that definition would be creating new ways to deliver the greater cost certainty that clients now demand. Does that mean "100% cost certainty"? (Did the original iPhone have everything it offers today? No, but it was a far better way than existed previously.) No. If your method satisfies the client's requirements in a different, more effective way than did the previous standard, it's innovative. 

Does the fact that the users of the eventual innovation (clients) are driving its development by explicit demand disqualify it as innovation?  Again, no. Innovation doesn't mean "arose out of personal inspiration" or having come out of a personal "Eureka!" moment.

Take a look at your practice. Determine what you can change, proactively, that would cause your clients to say, "She gets it." Don't wait around for the perfect scenario, i.e., something earth-shaking. Remember that perfect is the enemy of great.

Mike O'Horo

Lawyers don't need business development training. They need help preparing for imminent real-world marketing or sales activity. Most biz dev training offered to lawyers is what's known as "just in case," i.e., "take time now to learn all this stuff because you'll need it at some point." 

That can't work. Lawyers are in the "just in time" business, attending to the most pressing matters, deferring everything else until it's imminent.

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