You may think your firm has a surfeit of advocates, but not in the sense we’re using it here.  These advocates are not advocating for their view, but for advancing the client’s goals.  The Holy Grail is “delivering something new for the client.”  You may have noticed that this assumes the client wants “something new,” which is certainly the case in the mass media, fashion, and creative communications industries.  Whether it’s true of your firm’s clients is for you to find out.

The downside of advocates is also their tremendous virtue: Great agility.  They’ll come up with something “new,” believe-you-me, but they can go in too many directions at once or, having introduced the new new thing, jump immediately into the new new new thing without following through sufficiently on the (now old) new thing.


Does this sound at all familiar?

Out in the corporate wild, it’s common to see organizations getting in their own way when it comes to innovation. This is where motivators come in: They work to unleash the employees’ (and sometimes the customers’) creative spirit. That often involves getting the people and the culture focused on vision and imagination while reducing bureaucracy, complexity, and risk aversion. Motivators can come from many backgrounds (and may even fall into some of the categories already mentioned), but are distinguished by their fascination with narrative, people, and talent — and their friendly texts and voicemail messages. They define innovation as “unlocking the ideas of others.”

If you think your firm needs meaningful reinvention, you may want to call in a motivator and invite them to start instilling a mindset of “safe” (small-scale, quick-win/quick-fail) innovation.  Count on them to come to the defense of the right kind of mavericks and designing incentive structures to encourage creative thinking.

But beware: Without clear and conspicuous support from your firm’s very topmost leadership–who have to walk the walk themselves–you’re going to be wasting your HR $$ on these people.  Plus they’re savvy and they’ll jump ship the second or third time “sure” turns out to mean “in our own sweet, achingly protracted, time.”


Aaaah, now you’re talking law firm language!  Organizers worship at the shrine of process, which means they may readily prefer the right process to the right outcome.  Innovation is not the end, but crafting “the right process for generating new ideas” is the end.

Organizers can be found most anywhere but are particularly attracted to professional services, academia, and government, fields with many knowledge workers. While they can drive some other types crazy, organizers can be highly valuable in companies where innovation efforts require wide employee participation and the real challenge is adequately managing them. Assuming there are fresh ideas to run through their processes, organizers create momentum, galvanize support, and deftly navigate politics to help innovations go from idea to reality.

Organizers are usually effective – but can also lose sight of the big picture.

So there’s our Linnaean specification of CINO’s.

Which one do you most need?

You’re probably thinking all of them have something to offer.  True, and this takes us right back to what your firm means when it says it wants to serve up more of that innovation stuff.  Are you seeking delightful client experiences, Six Sigma business process optimization, profit maximization, “Best Place to Work” accolades, dazzling marketing?  Start there, not with the six species of CINO. (We can help with that, by the way.)

Regardless of which direction you think you should head, be aware that you’re competing with the wide world out there, not just other law firms.  As The Lawyer  noted just yesterday, Eversheds Sutherland lost Andrew McManus, its UK head of innovation, to Bridgepoint, a private equity shop, “as firms increasingly deal with an ever fluid recruitment market around technology roles.”

Finally, for extra added credit, take this poll!

[poll id=”20″]


Related Articles

Email Delivery

Get Our Latest Articles Delivered to your inbox +

Sign-up for email

Be the first to learn of Adam Smith, Esq. invitation-only events, surveys, and reports.

Get Our Latest Articles Delivered to Your Inbox

Like having coffee with Adam Smith, Esq. in the morning (coffee not included).

Oops, we need this information
Oops, we need this information
Oops, we need this information

Thanks and a hearty virtual handshake from the team at Adam Smith, Esq.; we’re glad you opted to hear from us.

What you can expect from us:

  • an email whenever we publish a new article;
  • respect and affection for our loyal readers. This means we’ll exercise the strictest discretion with your contact info; we will never release it outside our firm under any circumstances, not for love and not for money. And we ourselves will email you about a new article and only about a new article.

Welcome onboard! If you like what you read, tell your friends, and if you don’t, tell us.

PS: You know where to find us so we invite you to make this a two-way conversation; if you have an idea or suggestion for something you’d like us to discuss, drop it in our inbox. No promises that we’ll write about it, but we will faithfully promise to read your thoughts carefully.