When was the last time you had a brilliant idea that could save manual labour, reduce repetitive work, or just make your work easier? And? Did you succeed in bringing that brilliant idea to life? If so: well done! If you didn’t get investment or the idea is still in your head somewhere: here are some tips that can help you make it work.
1. Take Small Steps
Don’t shoot for the moon! Too often a good idea ends on the innovation graveyard, because it starts out too big. Take small steps, so decisions are easy to make and don’t involve too much money, people or time. Don’t prepare a business case (yet). Even if you think you know it all, make it easy to digest and break up the journey to get from idea to execution. Involve colleagues for buy in, get a mandate for research, do one or more test drives to validate your assumptions and then ask for investment.
Taking small steps also means that your ideas need to stay close to daily business and are reachable within a few months. Don’t plea for a fully automated robot lawyer or complete new Blockchain services. Your ideas need to deliver value quickly. Think of automating a manual process to reduce administrative hours or implementing a technology that improves or enhances the work you already do, before you set up a new business model around it.
2. Don’t go on your own
You have got a brilliant idea. Probably, you have been thinking about it for a while, did some research, seen a demo and more. You are convinced it is brilliant and you see all the benefits. That’s great! But it takes more than just you. You need support from your colleagues. Start asking around and share your idea: you might learn that one of your colleagues has a different view, already tried something similar, or have other valuable information. You will learn new insights and gain necessary support from colleagues that you will need later in the process.
At the same time, you shouldn’t run off on your own and do too much research without backing. If you are comfortable about your (beginning) idea, you should get a mandate from senior management before you start digging. Put your idea on the agenda for the next team meeting. Prepare to pitch in a few minutes. The goal of the first pitch is to get a mandate to proceed. If your request is granted, you are covered.
I use this Bulls Eye Pitch template, that you can download for free:
3. Try Before you Buy
Buying new technology comes with different types of costs. See my Blog “The Double Edged Sword” for more on this topic. Nobody wants to buy something that in the end does not work, or does not deliver the expected results. Therefore I recommend to take another (small) step before asking for investment and try out what you want to buy. The goal of doing a test drive is to validate assumptions. Does the solution delivers on its promise? Does it work for you? Can it integrate with other technology? Is security and data protected? And so on. I always use a Test Criteria Sheet, which is nothing more than a list in excel that sums up what you want to validate, how you will test it and what the results are.
Don’t give up too easily. If your test drive does not deliver results you like, this is not the end. Try to learn from the test, as that is the goal of doing a test anyway. This process is called validated learning. It is not strange to do multiple tests on the same solution or test another solution, as you are still searching for the right solution. Be transparent about test results and try to manage expectations. If the tests are successful and you are positive that the solution is of value to you and your team, you can take it to the next step and ask for investment.
4. Keep the Pace
Another reason why ideas fail to reach implementation is lack of progress. Often, an innovation project is not high on our priority list as business always comes first. Innovation projects are valuable for the long run. But in a law firm or legal department, there are always more urgent things to do on the short term. The result for innovation projects is that they do not start at all, or die a slow death just because it takes too long to see results. Taking small steps (tip 1) and having your idea as a recurring topic on the agenda (tip 2) will help to get results and keep your idea alive. Keep the pace!
Recurring communication about deliverables and milestones will increase necessary support. If you have the mandate to do research: communicate about it, set deliverables, chase progress and communicate about the results. If you have permission to do a test drive: communicate about it, set new deliverables, chase results and communicate again. How? Keep it simple. Use email to send short updates, present at recurring meetings and/or use your intranet.You will see that support will grow and help will come from more people you expected.
We can all have brilliant ideas, but executing on it is difficult. With these tips I hope you will have some guidance to make it work. And i f you need help with executing your ideas, reach out to me.
Tjeerd van Ginkel is a freelance innovation consultant who is on a mission to help to change the legal industry. Curious to find out more? Schedule an introduction call via the button below, or fill in the contact form.
If you want to receive more of these stories, subscribe here to Your Legal Innovation Newsletter: