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41 posts from June 2006

June 29, 2006

links for 2006-06-29

June 28, 2006

Seven Challenges to Successful KM in Law Firms

This is an old article from Cory Doctorow, but you should read it if you want to successfully implement KM (Knowledge Management) in your firm.  Though Cory is talking on the problems of promulgating reliable metadata (“data about data”) on the web at large, I think his observations are true in small organizations as well.  Cory gives seven insurmountable obstacles that will keep us from reaching “meta-utopia.”  In a law firm setting, these are the ones that seem most likely to torpedo a successful implementation of KM:

People are lazy

You and me are engaged in the incredibly serious business of creating information. Here in the Info-Ivory-Tower, we understand the importance of creating and maintaining excellent metadata for our information.

But info-civilians are remarkably cavalier about their information. Your clueless aunt sends you email with no subject line, half the pages on Geocities are called "Please title this page" and your boss stores all of his files on his desktop with helpful titles like "UNTITLED.DOC."

This laziness is bottomless. No amount of ease-of-use will end it. To understand the true depths of meta-laziness, download ten random MP3 files from Napster. Chances are, at least one will have no title, artist or track information -- this despite the fact that adding in this info merely requires clicking the "Fetch Track Info from CDDB" button on every MP3-ripping application.

Short of breaking fingers or sending out squads of vengeful info-ninjas to add metadata to the average user's files, we're never gonna get there.

People are stupid

Even when there's a positive benefit to creating good metadata, people steadfastly refuse to exercise care and diligence in their metadata creation.

Take eBay: every seller there has a damned good reason for double-checking their listings for typos and misspellings. Try searching for "plam" on eBay. Right now, that turns up nine typoed listings for "Plam Pilots." Misspelled listings don't show up in correctly-spelled searches and hence garner fewer bids and lower sale-prices. You can almost always get a bargain on a Plam Pilot at eBay.

The fine (and gross) points of literacy -- spelling, punctuation, grammar -- elude the vast majority of the Internet's users. To believe that J. Random Users will suddenly and en masse learn to spell and punctuate -- let alone accurately categorize their information according to whatever hierarchy they're supposed to be using -- is self-delusion of the first water.  

When Creativity Takes a Holiday

One of the reasons lawyers aren’t a more innovative bunch is that we spend so much time working in our businesses, that we don’t have time to work on them.  Does this sound familiar

When pressure's intense, creativity is one of the first casualties. Fear of producing still more work, fear of censure and fear of losing face foster cultures that are risk-averse; together with an attitude that protecting your butt always takes precedence. People become too afraid—or too tired—to do more than stick with what they know and what's worked before. You can say goodbye to any possibility of outdistancing the competition through innovation.

Besides, in today's most typical culture, internal competition is more intense as job cuts proliferate and promotion prospects diminish. No one can afford to make mistakes. Mistakes cost results and time; they undermine your credibility; they're noted by those who control promotion, political influence and employment itself. Why risk any of these to back some unproven idea? "Making the numbers" gets you a pat on the back—more or less however you do it.

Time is already in such short supply in companies like that no one dares use any on innovation. They all go instead for the quick, obvious answer; the "done it before a thousand times" answer; the quick-fix. That new idea may be a winner—sometime in the future. But who looks that far ahead, when getting through the rest of today looks uncertain enough? Unless it comes with one of these adjectives attached—instant, quicker, simpler, cheaper, fail-safe—or fits the "get it done and move one" fashionable attitude, dump it right away.

I’m working on a presentation right now, with the working title “Being a More Creative Lawyer,” that I’ll share here online when the first draft is done.  I’m having a tremendous time merging my thoughts on creativity and Idea Surplus Disorder(tm) with my new, still developing presentation style.  I’ll have more soon. 

Stressless Press

Need an intro on getting good press?  Here it is.  One great suggestion to get in print publications (and blogs) is to:

Get to know your publication: 

Buy three issues of the magazine and read it cover to cover.

    1. Observe which sections change month on month and which don’t.
    2. Make a note of what the cover theme is each month and which words or themes are repeated. Anything that is repeated time and time again on a cover means it’s a core topic for that magazine.
    3. From your own research form a picture of who the reader is.
    4. Create a profile of a typical advertiser and who they are trying to reach - this will help you understand where most of the magazine’s ad revenue comes from - and also who is currently successful in this market.
    5. Imagine your product or service appearing in the mag. Does it fit? Will the readers be interested in it? Can they afford it?

Once you have chosen the publication that is perfect for you and your idea then you are ready to begin your marketing onslaught. First things first: find out who is responsible for which areas of editorial. This may not be clear from the editorial panel so ring the magazine to find out. Speak to the secretary if you can’t speak to the team. The same goes for a newspaper or indeed any other media.

Armed with this information, there are four main ways that you can get the attention of a publication: as an Expert in your field, as an Ideas Machine, by sending a Press Release, or by requesting a Review.


Get Down With NLP -- Yeah You Know Me

Want an introduction to Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)?  Check out this 12 part series on the Life Coaches Blog:  NLP 101.  What is NLP?

A powerful bag of tricks that allows you to help people change themselves through its mental models, patterns of influence and techniques of change.

Instead of giving you generals, NLP has many step-by-step specifics, which is great when practitioners recognize the principles so they know how not to go step-by-step, and terrible when practitioners don’t know the principles and follow the steps to the letter or bend it all out of shape.

A lot of trial lawyers have been studying NLP to help them connect with juries.  If you are curious, check out the whole series.

links for 2006-06-28

June 27, 2006

I'm Sorry I'm Late, To Whom Do I Make This Check?

Earlier today, I posted about a novel way to make sure clients keep their appointments.  In a comment to that post, a reader wrote:

That is a good plan except it should work both ways. With rare exceptions, I have never had a doctor get me in on time.

I agree.  Imagine if you promised to donate the same amount you charged for missed appointments to your client’s charity of choice if you are the one who misses the appointment. 

One Way to Sell Wisdom

Having a difficult time “selling” your value as an advisor instead of a tecnician?  Here’s an easy-to-understand way to communicate the differences between Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom, from the Across the Sound podcast (via Howard Kaplan):

Data is "the sun rises at 5:12 AM"

Information is "the sun rises from the East, at 5:12 AM"

Knowledge is "If you're lost in the woods without a compass, follow the direction of the sun to find your direction"

Finally, wisdom is "Don't get lost in the woods"

Charge Late Fees for Missed Appointments?

What do you do when clients don’t show up for scheduled appointment?  Rob May’s new doctor has a pretty good idea:

A few weeks ago I started going to a new doctor, and was made to sign a document explaining their late fee policy. It was unique. If you miss a scheduled visit, you are charged a $20 fee. If you are late by more than 10 minutes, that qualifies as a missed session. But the doctor's office doesn't keep the money. All money from late fees is donated to the local children's hospital.

I haven't missed a visit, but if I did, I can't imagine arguing with the penalty. I think it's brilliant. It turns the debate from a me vs. them fight for my money to a decision about whether to give money to a third party charity. In essence, it diffuses customer anger while still imposing a penalty. It reminds me that innovative solutions to business problems do exist, but they sometimes require you to step a little bit outside the lines of conventional wisdom.

links for 2006-06-27