GENERATING NEW ideas about how to provide their services is one of the best ways to generate new growth in a firm, according to an analyst at one of the top accounting firms. But law firms need to break down barriers between practices to foster innovation.
Peter Williams, chair of the Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu innovation council, last week told the Australian Legal Practice Management Association Legal Management Summit that the number one factor contributing to growth is innovation.
But innovation requires the generation of “lots of ideas”, he said, many of which will be bad, but there will be a few that could make all the difference. “You have got to encourage people to have more and more ideas, because eventually you get good ones.”
“Get diverse views. Get other people outside of a discipline to come in with new ideas.” He said this would provide a fresh perspective on the way things are usually done. “Any time I hear an incongruous view, I stop and listen because it means we may have found a breakthrough.”
He said firms need to ask: “Are you selling what your customers are dreaming about buying”.
Despite the pressure on lawyers to produce work in shorter and shorter timeframes, Williams said firms also need to provide the “time and space” to innovate. “When you are busy, you drop 10 points of your IQ.”
“Observe and ponder, explore the incongruous; look at the problem from a different viewpoint”.
However, he said innovative ideas had to be generated in a very structured way, with strong commitment from the leaders in the firm and to ensuring that each new idea is assessed, and action taken, either to reject it or take it up.
“If your leadership don’t want to innovate, it won’t happen,” he said. This includes the fostering of a “creative culture” where employees are encouraged to talk about and raise new ideas. One solution to get the firm talking about ideas was to set up an internal blog where anyone could post and discuss ideas and views. “If you start to have a real conversation with people in your organisation, it can drive innovation.”
The firm should set up a specific website, email address or phone number for employees to call in with their ideas. Once received, they must be acted upon or employees will quickly become disillusioned.
At Deloitte, he says, the innovation council has a policy to review ideas submitted within seven days and what action will be taken on it within three weeks.