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Case study: Innovation as a strategic driver in the legal industry

How we helped a legal firm develop a breakthrough innovation capability

Justice may be blind but the legal industry shouldn’t be deaf. If you heard the weak signals of disruption in the legal industry, what would you do if you were leading one of the key players of that industry?

Faced with this challenge, the CEO of an Australian legal firm decided it was time to make innovation one of the key pillars of their new strategy and build their innovation muscle to create new growth, protect the organisation from disruption risks and extend access to justice to people in Australia and abroad.

To deliver on that strategic intent, he engaged Vibrance to mobilise the organisation and build a picture of what a future innovation capability could look like. The CEO needed us to source the perspectives of numerous stakeholders across the firm to clearly understand and address their unique challenges.

In particular, he was looking for a recommendation on how an innovation capability could exist within a traditional legal environment and what structure, operating model, processes and culture would be required to build resilience and maximise the potential for new product growth. We framed those challenges into the following lines of inquiry:

  • How can we access genuinely breakthrough opportunities when most of the organisation will be coming from a place of here and now, rather than what the future could be? How can we be confident that the organisation will stay the course and invest in new ideas when collectively there is little conversation about the threats and opportunities that are driving the need for innovation?

  • How will we successfully deliver an innovation agenda when very few staff have product building experience or digital and innovation backgrounds

  • How do we create an innovation capability that is free of the organisation’s bureaucracy but still sufficiently connected to take advantage of scale, expertise, client base and brand?

  • How do we create a system that protects the organisation from pursuing costly solutions that end up not providing any real ROI?

  • How can we ensure the right approach to test and learn when Executives and the Board are accustomed to 90% of risks paying off?

The Vibrance team started by assessing the existing innovation capability and unpacking learnings from previous new product development initiatives in the organisation. We also interviewed all key stakeholders to understand their appetite, motivations, concerns and existing convictions.

By first asking questions and creating a space for people to share their perspectives, we were able to identify where there were areas of common ground, and where there were different views that needed to be bridged. This was essential context to take into the next stage of helping our client design their innovation blueprint, as force fitting a cookie-cutter approach does not create the conditions for success.

With a core team of key stakeholders in place, we mirrored the research findings to the team to reach a shared understanding, generate excitement, and address concerns head-on. We agreed on a set of design principles that operated as a working manifesto, keeping everyone focused as we co-designed the high-level blueprint of an innovation capability that could create new growth and resilience in the organisation. That meant diving into the following lines of inquiry as a collective:

  • What type of innovation are we aiming for? And what are our innovation objectives?

  • What’s the best vehicle to deliver our expected outcomes?

  • What’s the most relevant structure for the innovation organisation? And who should innovation report to?

  • What budget should we start with? And how is the budget likely to evolve?

  • What operating model will we use to manage innovation? What will our process, governance, funding, KPIs look like

  • What talent do we need to attract to innovate at scale? And how will we manage them?

For each question we presented a series of options and assessed with our key stakeholders which one would work best for the organisation. Exploring and answering those questions at the appropriate level of depth enabled us to have the right conversation within the Executive team and then to get alignment with and buy-in from the Board of Directors.

On top of a concrete 1-year roadmap, this first project phase created confidence and clarity on how the firm’s strategic pillar focused on innovation could be managed. The ultimate outcome was the client’s Board signing off on the investment required to fund the first year of establishment and operations for their new innovation capability.


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