Archive for September, 2010

I borrowed the title from Ricardo Semler’s talk at MIT about his famous SEMCO company.  If you’re like most of us lawyers, you’re forgiven for not knowing anything about SEMCO and its evolutionary way of doing business.

In the MIT talk, Semler talks about a recent celebration at the company: his 10th year without making any decisions. Whilst it is unlikely Ricardo made absolutely “0” decisions in 10 years at a company earning hundreds of millions, you get the point. Semler created an environment in which the employees organized and managed themselves. He took a $2 million business his father built and grew it to over $200 million year.  More amazing to me is that SEMCO grew continuously during every type of economic and financial disaster in Brazil during the last 18 years.

Ricardo candidly acknowledges that many people go to Brazil and visit SEMCO to study how it works. But almost none of them make any similar evolutionary steps towards innovating or evolving their own organizations.

As one very religious friend once told me, “it is easier to breed church members than it is to convert them”.   Let’s be empathetic about this: entrenched management simply has no controllable means or tools with which to quantify intuition and reward collaborative endeavors.

The Online Bar is a global legal organization that is leading the way in learning how lawyers can work collaboratively on a global scale. We ‘re exploring and building a new way of practicing law.  Solo and small firms are the fastest growing segment of the legal market.  But they have not yet figured out how to collaborate to scale up and compete with larger global firms. How to use scale to design a more rewarding practice of law.

With the amount of free or almost free technology available, this is not a technology challenge.  It is a human one.  It takes a determined group to bring about this sort of paradigm shift. Not because any scientific principle or precedent requires it, but because it is too easy to fall back into doubt. It is too easy to feel comfortable (for now) in “what is” than to boldly step into “what ought to be” and “what could be”!

How we design a new way of practicing law is really up to us.  I could tell you exactly how to do it.  I could announce highly specific missions with detailed procedures, rules and regulations that you must follow, but then I would not be leading by omission….


Read Full Post »

We’re all part of that urgent storm of change and innovation.

As for my part, I am an innovator; it’s what I do. I can’t help it; I do it automatically. But even I admit that innovation is not always good, nor is its timing. Innovation is mostly disruptive and painful to the people who lose their jobs and careers when innovation happens. Their trades or professions become commoditized, outsourced or obsolete.

Then there’s the politics of innovation. With the rallying cry for innovation sounded, there will be unnecessary destruction and disruption without reason. Order will become chaos without a strategy. Entrenched bureaucracies will see this as justification to act as usual and kill the innovators, bury them in unmarked career graves and close ranks. Both sides will polarize. The volatility of politics will predominate and neither side concedes until it is too late.

Like putting a very old and sick dog out of its pain, some businesses (corporations) don’t need innovation. They need to be put down or sold off in parts like harvested donor organs that can bring life to another in need.

I can’t help but ask if most innovations simply create more problems that need more “innovations” to solve.  Should we then stand still, if only for a moment and listen for some form of ecological inspiration instead of the sound of our own strenuous breathing?  I don’t know, I leave that to us to decide together.  You already know what I do: I am an innovator; it’s what I do…..

Read Full Post »