Close your eyes for a second and think about the one tool or piece of technology that would really help you serve your customers. Maybe it’s a better way to find that elegant clause you remember drafting for a contract two years ago that you need to draft again. Perhaps it’s something that puts outside counsel spend on a matter at your fingertips. Or something that gives you advance warning that a client is about to be sued. Now, how do you convert that desire to have something tremendously useful into a reality?
Often, the approach used consists of asking your legal operations or technology people to “find you something” and waiting to see what they come up with. It’s not surprising when, despite their diligence and effort, the result isn’t something that you, the practicing attorney, need.
The situation is a little like asking someone to go pick up dinner for you when you aren’t familiar with the local restaurants, and the person doesn’t know your food preferences. If you want a meal you enjoy, they need to inform you about the nearby restaurant choices and ask what you like to eat. And you need to take the time to listen to that information and provide that input. If they come by your office with a menu and ask you to select a couple of items, you need to take a look rather than wave them away. The same process applies to finding new solutions for old problems.
I confess that when I was managing technology for my previous firm, I didn’t truly appreciate this problem because I was a jack-of-all-trades—I used, researched, and selected the technology myself. Since then, I’ve come to understand that for the firms operating at a larger scale, a disconnect often forms between the people who want (and will ultimately use) a solution and the people responsible for finding it. In short, the person eating the food isn’t looking at the menu.
Michael Naughton of Cisco recently wrote on LinkedIn about usability testing prototypes with future users. This process involves having the people who will put the solution together and the people who will use it sit down together to explore what works and what doesn’t. At Elevate Services, we employ Digital Design Thinking to scope problems and then explore them and potential solutions. This process works best when the people who will use the solution commit the time to participate and provide their point of view, experience, and knowledge. In a recent interview with Liam Brown, ARM Limited General Counsel Carolyn Herzog spoke (albeit in a more general context) about the need to obtain feedback and its importance in getting solutions right.
Communication with the people who will ultimately use a solution is essential to effect impactful change and drive improvement. But it’s a two-way street: those who design solutions must be willing to accept feedback, but the other party must be willing to give it. Feedback is a gift—and, like any gift, someone has to commit an act of generosity in providing it. Time is valuable, and for the practicing lawyer, it is in very short supply. But if the practicing lawyers who will eventually use a solution don’t commit to generosity—by participating in usability testing, doing design thinking sessions, assessing potential solutions and ideas, and providing feedback—they will inevitably end up with a meal they aren’t interested in eating. So, remember that feedback is a gift—and don’t forget to give generously.
Communication with the people who will ultimately use a solution is essential to drive improvement. But it’s a two-way street: those who design solutions must be willing to accept feedback, but the other party must be willing to give it. Feedback is a gift—and, like any gift, someone has to commit an act of generosity in providing it.