What we can learn from designers to boost our competitiveness
Interview by Antwerp Management School on 14 June 2018 in Business Design & Innovation
Dominique Meert has been a freelance consultant since September 2016. With her company 2KnowHow2 she helps legal service providers to make their services and products more customer-oriented and to optimize their processes step by step. Dominique focuses on lawyers, legal departments, legal publishers and legal start-ups. They usually have a strong background in law and economics but have little or no knowledge of how to structure innovation processes. In this blog post Dominique tells us why Design Thinking becomes ever more important in the legal field.
Dominique agrees that this is quite disruptive for a sector that is known to be very traditional. "For the last 13 years of my career I have had a variety of jobs in the legal profession. Even though there are many opportunities, innovation is slow. Technological evolutions are a trigger, of course. But I’m convinced that in future innovative business models, rather than new legal services or products, will create the biggest added value, both for the organizations and their customers.”
Several triggers have caused Belgian law firms to put innovation higher on their agenda. "All generalizations are dangerous and of course there are differences between law firms, but you can still detect an overall trend: The legal profession is increasingly challenged by players who can provide legal services faster, cheaper and far more efficiently. These players know how to automate routine operations by making use of technological evolutions, while many Belgian firms still fail to make the most of the digital highway and technology in general."
"The world around us is constantly changing, providing us with amazing opportunities to reinvent ourselves over and over again."
According to Dominique, most law firms lack a long-term innovative approach. The development of a global digital and innovation strategy, however, becomes increasingly important in a rapidly evolving world. Because of its broad scope, Design Thinking may act as the perfect stepping-stone. "This multidisciplinary way of thinking and acting puts the client or user in the center of the innovation process and combines creativity with structure. You can use Design Thinking to innovate and optimize both products & services ánd business models, that’s the beauty of it."
Content, processes, technology & people
Dominique always works on four levels: content (what are we going to do with our knowledge), processes (how are we going to do that), technology (what technology do we need) and people (who is going to do what). Dominique: "At Belgian law firms, this means for instance that we look at how we can optimize internal knowledge management, whether and how we can market existing services into products, what new services or products we can develop, how we could work more efficiently by optimizing and automating workflows, how we can adjust the business model etcetera."
“You can use Design Thinking to innovate and optimize both products & services ánd business models, that’s the beauty of it."
Dominique felt that working freelance would make it easier to make the most of all these opportunities. "Self-development is crucial to me in a professional context. I like to work in a multidisciplinary way and to learn new things all the time. The world around us is constantly changing, providing us with amazing opportunities to reinvent ourselves and our business over and over again. I definitely didn't want to miss the boat."
Design the right thing vs. design the thing right
This made Dominique the perfect student for the Master Class Business Design Thinking, but what can you actually learn from this training? "Designers show us that creativity and structure can go hand in hand. The process-driven approach of 'designing the right thing' and 'designing the thing right' allows you to quickly understand what users want, to prototype and to validate. Designers also work very in a very visual way. I’m a big believer of visualization: any kind of visualization (canvas, graphic recording etc.) increases your chances of success. Design Thinking thus helps to turn the creative process into real added value for your customer."
"The process-driven approach of 'designing the right thing' and 'designing the thing right' allows you to quickly understand what users want, to prototype and to validate.”
Dominique benefited a great deal from the various (visual) tools that were used in the master class: "As an entrepreneur, I really appreciated those functional tools and checklists. They’re very practical and I can easily apply them to the legal context I work in. I now often use tools such as personas, the value innovation canvas, the value exchange board and the selection matrix. The value exchange boards are used to put together teams in an organic way, whereas personas help you to put a face to your target groups."
You can learn how to innovate
Dominique registered for the Master Class Business Design Thinking, both to gain new insights and to be inspired by cases from others. "For example, I learned that innovation is a skill, not a talent. You can actually learn how to innovate! Of course, some people are more creative or innovative than others, but still. I also experienced the power of multidisciplinary teams. Put together people from totally different professional backgrounds and with different skills, provide them with one common goal and magic will happen."
"For example, I learned that innovation is a skill, not a talent. You can actually learn how to innovate!"
According to Dominique, anyone who is willing to look at innovation with an open mind will be inspired by this master class. "The pragmatic approach of Antwerp Management School is definitely a plus: no endless theoretical explanations but hands-on lessons in which you learn how to use the visual tools and methods by yourself. The innovation process is also framed within a broader strategic context. Remco Lenstra coached us with a lot of energy, passion and enthusiasm. I work in a sector with many ‘yes, but’ people, but here I got caught up in an innovative vibe that made me feel incredible."