Be innovative. Now! What works and what gets in the way of entrepreneurial thinking

Change is on the agenda

What does the future hold for your business?  If I had a precise answer to that, I might be rich!  What I do know is that it will involve innovation and change.  In order to survive any business needs to be creative: NOW!   That’s a bit like being asked to tell a joke isn’t it?  The mind goes blank and every amusing thought you ever had eludes you.  Unless you are highly artistic, pressure is unlikely to bring out your creative side.

 Making professionalism & creativity compatible

Post LSA, there is much talk about babies going out with bath water.  “Consumers” and “market shares” are not necessarily palatable terms to people who believe that they embody the values of a worthy profession.  This opposition to change is anathema when it comes to making positive change.  Identify your values, by all means.  Embody your values, do.  But do recognise that they are outcomes, ultimate ends, not necessarily the means to the end in themselves.

Are we, in fact, all doomed?

That said, when dedicated professionals of the likes of Tooks Chambers are throwing in the towel, it is entirely understandable that lawyers are coming over all Private Frazer from Dad’s Army, declaring, “We’re all doomed I tell you!  Doomed I tell you!”  This kind of thinking is, of course, the opposite of what is required when trying to generate new approaches to problems.

Its as though someone has said, “I bet you can’t tell a joke”.  Very probably, in that moment, you can’t.  Likewise, the urge to think creatively vanishes in the presence of negative thinking and pressure.  You don’t need to come over all artistic and demand whale-song and wild flowers.  You do need to be authentic in your desire to allow people to collaborate, explore ideas and make mistakes.

Any quick fixes?

Two common approaches to trying to free up ideas which have their short-comings are, (1) the away day and (2) the idea that you can buy-in creativity.  Both are better than nothing.  Both also smack of ducking responsibility for generating real change.  Lawyers have to take responsibility for creating change day-to-day in the way they work.  Getting ideas flowing on an away is fine, but take it back to the office and do something!  Buying-in talent is a great idea, but the talent cannot do it alone.  They are the catalysts.  The lawyers who deliver the business every day are the agents of change.

Creating Change

To engage people in being entrepreneurial and making your business work, I recommend the following;

  • Ask the question, “Would you recommend this business as a good place to work?”
    • If the answer is “yes”, then what makes it so?  Are you communicating that positive message to your clients?  Are you encouraging them to be proactive about using your services?  How could things be even better?
    • If the answer is “no”, then what makes it so?  What needs to change?
    • Make collaboration a priority.  Allow people who do not usually work together, and who do not have any previous experience of the issues in question, and give them permission to think.
    • Do not expect miracles; encourage ideas which may develop into practical solutions.
    • Use your leadership skills to implement the ideas you think might have legs.
    • Understand what innovation means to the people directly affected and get them on-board.
    • Feedback the positive outcomes of change and recognise those who contributed to making it a success.

Developing skills

The expectation that every lawyer has the innate skills to be entrepreneurial is misguided.  Professional development, self development, personal development, call it what you will, but it needs to embrace people skills.  Collaboration and communication are key.  They start with understanding what you have to offer and how you work best with others.  We can help with that.  Give us a call.

 

SRA chief promises “a bonfire” of unnecessary regulations in legal education & training

The Westminster Forum on the LETR ended today with Antony Townsend CEO of the SRA declaring an imminent “bonfire” of regulations on legal education & training.  He promised to strip away regulations which inhibit access to the professions, including abolishing the requirement to issue a Certificate of Completion of the academic stage of training.

After a morning of speeches and discussions about the need for change, the audience was delighted by promises of real action from the SRA.  Three headlines were announced:

  1. An end to “one-size fits all” education and training.  A range of paths into the professions are to be encouraged based on the skills & knowledge that employers require.
  2. The tick box approach to cpd “will go”, to be replaced by a strategy for continuing competence.
  3. A  “bonfire” of unnecessary regulation was enthusiastically predicted.

Townsend kindled a blast of energy at the conclusion of the event.  Some aspects of legal education, he said, are just “not good enough”.  One factor took the edge off the force his address; decisions will follow a period of consultation and will be finalised “late next year”.  However, given the tone and force of the announcements the intention is clearly that sparks will fly.

Appearing on the same platform as Simon Thornton-Wood from the BSB, Townsend declared that the two regulators are working closely together to address change following LETR recommendations.  Challenged from the floor to generate plans together, rather than comparing notes retrospectively, the two insisted that they are working in partnership.  “Our destination is the same,” Thornton-Wood insisted, “and our methods of arriving there need to converge”.

NJ at LETR     Nicola contributing to the LETR Symposium, July 2012

The LETR Report was met with some ambivalence when it was published in June.  The most prevalent criticism being that it should have been bolder in its recommendations.  My view has always been that the professions would have reacted badly to being told what to do.  The LETR has done its job: it has forced the regulators to act.  Now the legal professions must use education and training to create an agile, motivated workforce which can deliver excellent service and protect the rule of law.

If you would like to talk about the LETR, about learning & development strategy or any other L&D matter please email on nicola@athenaprofessional.co.uk or call 07799 237479