Note: This could apply to any professional services firm, not just a law firm…
There?s a story told about Jack Welch, former GE president ? it might be from one of his books, or it might be apocryphal; quite possibly it?s both. The story goes that soon after he took over the company, he called in his vice-presidents and other senior people and advised them that countless smaller companies and start-ups were out there gunning for GE, hoping to take down the top dog by finding the chinks in its armour and exploiting them. He directed his people to locate these companies, identify the disruptive innovations they were coming up with, and prepare defences against them.
Two days later, Welch called those same people back into the boardroom and told them he?d changed his mind. When his VPs and senior leaders found these companies and figured out what they were doing to destroy GE?s business, they weren?t to prepare defences against those innovations. They were to adopt them.
In a nutshell, that describes the challenge facing companies in virtually every industry today, especially legacy industries like music, automobiles and publishing where complacency has led to ruin. Very rarely, companies rise to the challenge: consider The Atlantic magazine, which is meeting this innovator?s dilemma by doing exactly what Jack Welch prescribed: reinventing its business model before competitors force it to do so. In the words of the company?s media president:
??If our mission was to kill the magazine, what would we do??? said Smith, who added that a digital competitor was going to do that anyway, so they did it themselves.?
The article continues: ?There are so few companies that realize this needs to be a key element of their strategy. Someone else is out there trying to kill them. So do it yourself and reap the rewards.