Innovating by Standing Still
post # 130 — July 12, 2006 — a Strategy post
In a recent Financial times special study on innovation in law firms
, UK firm Slaughter and May (the UK’s most profitable law firm, I think) was commended for its innovative “best friends” strategy for serving its clients’ internatonal needs though partnering on a case-by-case basis with unaffiliated foreign firms – a policy it has ALWAYS had, for many decades now.
Unlike its major competitors which have merged, globalized, formed (and unformed) alliances, opened (and closed) offices, Slaughter and May have stuck to a policy of being a “premium unaligned firm”, working to be absolutely the best in their own domestic marketplace, and serving their international clients by teaming up with “best friends” firms in other jurisdictions on a case-by-case basis.
If you think about it, there’s something strange in being commended for an innovation which is defined as not changing – NOT making all the changes that your competitors made.
However, there’s a kind of logic to it, too. Slaughter & May has been incredibly successful, and is much respected. And not all of their competitors’ moves have panned out so well. In a recent article, I wrote about my concerns about geographic expansion strategies
In todays’ competitive landscape, it IS somewhat innovative to find a firm that achieved success by resisting the siren call of volume, geographic expansion and diversification and has clearly placed caliber of work -ie quality as it’s key strategic goal.
There’s something fascinating here. Maybe we worship change too much. Maybe there is something innovative about a firm that has stuck to its own philosophies and resisted the path that all its competitors have followed.
Anyone else got any thoughts on this?