Prudent planning for innovation

Prudent planning for innovation

This is the fifth in a series of nine postings about successful innovation in law firms. Today we look at the third secret of successful innovation.

Write a conservative plan.

Conservative - even skeptical - planning might seem to be antithetical to concepts of energetic innovation; but it is actually one of the best ways to improve the chances of success.

The phrase write a conservative plan is packed with meaning.

  1. Innovations should be tested by trying to write a business plan for the new idea. As with any serious business or professional initiative, the plan should be in writing. This is the best way to avoid misconceptions and conflicting recollections about the goals, features, and investments required for the innovation.
  2. The plan should be conservative. Underestimate the financial returns. Costs need not be a worst case scenario, but they should assume that everything that probably could go wrong will go wrong. Every estimate - both returns and costs - should be linked to real-world data. For innovations that are truly radical - such as "Blue Ocean" strategies that simply do not exist at all in the current legal environment - these estimates might be difficult to develop with a high degree of confidence; but avoid the temptation to "wait and see."
  3. It should be a real plan, with:
  • specific, measurable, and time-defined goals
  • a budget
  • assigned responsibilities and target dates for completion
  • performance measurements

Innovation is not a matter of making a wish and waving a magic wand. Law firms that are successful know that it is a disciplined business process. Without thorough planning, you will never be able to:

  • Have confidence that your innovation will succeed
  • Spot implementation problems before they wreck what you are trying to accomplish
  • Know whether you have improved things, or only changed them.

That last point is particularly important. To borrow the old advertising slogan, to be successful your innovation must be "new and improved."

Read more on the WalkerClark Worldview Blog.