What Are You Ingesting and Will You Digest It For Me?

22 May

blur-books-close-up-159866By Deborah S. Panella, Director of Research & Knowledge Services, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP

I recently stumbled upon a web post, 50 Popular Business Books Summarized in One Sentence Each, and appreciated authors Drake Baer and Mike Nudelman’s ability to synthesize entire books so succinctly.  For example, about Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion: “[t]here are six universal principals that determine if people will change behavior – reciprocity, commitment, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity.”  Okay, so one sentence is sometimes more like a teaser, but the list helped me decide which books to explore in greater depth.  It also made me realize how much I value recommendations from – and summaries by – peers.   Several selections are shared below.

Stephanie Abbott, Director, Janders Dean (Australia):

“I’m currently (re) reading an oldie but a goodie – Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. A title with “checklist” in it might not normally scream “page-turner,” but the first time I read it back in 2011, this one was so compelling I actually stayed up until it was finished. I find this book even more relevant now amidst the hype and ever-escalating promise of legal technology. It’s handy to remember that, sometimes, all you need to make major improvements is to think about what you’re doing.

This book traces the origins of the process checklist through real (and at times, hair-raising) stories: starting with the evolution of the aviation industry then branching out into operating theatres, disaster recovery, investment banking and construction, to name a few. It’s a great reminder that processes too fiendishly complex for one human or a team of humans stay on top of can still be managed and improved without resorting to magic bullets or billion dollar investments. All it requires is some intelligence, diligence and empowering the right people with a simple, no-tech solution. Sound attractive? You betcha.”

Marlene Gebauer, Director of Knowledge Solutions, Greenberg Traurig (US):

“I read a blog post on Knoco Stories on knowledge documents versus project documents, and I thought Nick Milton laid out the differences very nicely.  There is a difference between the knowledge workstream and the project workstream and both serve different purposes.  Documents in the project workstream serve the purpose of completing the project and their lifecycle revolves around the project.  Knowledge documents are not tied to a project, but are applied across an organization and have an extended lifespan.  The two types of documents can be linked; there may be best practices or examples that come out of a project and that can be absorbed into the knowledge base.  I found the distinction interesting because there is sometimes a misconception that these documents and workstreams overlap or are the same when they are not.”

Mara Nickerson, Chief Knowledge Officer, Osler (Canada):

“I recommend the podcast, Here is Why All Your Projects are Late and What To Do About It. If you have been in KM for more than … hmmm … 6 months, then you have had a project take longer than you thought, and I am guessing all of you have had projects go over budget (if you haven’t then please give me a call as I would like to hire you). Assuming you are not some kind of project management savant, then you should listen to this Freakonomics podcast.

The central theme of the podcast is the planning fallacy – a tendency to underestimate the time it will take to complete a project, despite knowing that similar projects have typically taken longer in the past. The speakers on this podcast posit that planning fallacy stems from a combination of the optimism bias and coordination neglect. The first being our tendency to idealize and over simplify when we are planning.  The latter, being our tendency to underestimate the amount of time and effort it takes to coordinate activities and communication across a team. (Reinforcing my belief that if I could just do the work all on my own I would get it done on time!).

So what can you do to overcome the planning fallacy? The primary answer seems to be – look at the data!  (I suspect most of you are not surprised.)  When we are doing a budget for project X, ignore the specifics of project X and instead use reference class forecasting. Look back at similar projects and see how much they cost and how long they took.

The planning fallacy isn’t a new concept and many of you may have read the Harvard Business Review article on the Planning Fallacy and the Innovators Dilemma. But I found this a really interesting podcast to consider not just with respect to my KM projects but to reinforce for our lawyers the importance of data on past matters to support budgeting and pricing efforts for legal matters.

Check it out on Freakonomics Radio, available through iTunes.”

Deborah Panella, Director of Research & Knowledge Services, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP (US):

“I was recently drawn to a book’s title: Best Practices are Stupid, by Stephen M. Shapiro.  The author, an ‘innovation advisor,’ offers 40 short chapters, each covering a tip to avoid innovation failures.  Some chapters, like ‘Simplification is the Best Innovation,’ need no explanation, while others are more substantive.  Each chapter ends with a quote, including this one which will surely resonate with KM professionals: “We often hear the expression ‘Build it and they will come,’ but with innovation, a more accurate statement is ‘Eliminate a pain and they will come.’”  Shapiro advises readers to manage their innovation portfolios much like your investment portfolios – with a balance of Incremental Innovation (safe bets that are relatively easy and inexpensive to implement, and sure to yield positive results), Adaptive Innovation (relatively easy changes from a technical perspective, but possibly difficult to drive adoption), Technical Innovation (where the need is clear but the solution is technically complex and challenging), and Radical Innovation (both technically complex and with a high level of adoption uncertainty).

Given most law firms’ and law departments’ budget and staffing challenges, few KM and Innovation professionals have an active project portfolio with such a mix.  Instead, we must prioritize the winning projects – by identifying the difference between ideas that are duds and those that are worthy of time and investment.  This is surely one reason that ILTA’s recent workshops and 2017 program on Sustainable KM: Turning Treadmills into Windmills (featuring Mary Abraham and Chris Boyd) were so popular.”

 As for reading foundations and keeping up with hot topics and identifying what to read, several peers provided useful recommendations.

Mary Abraham, Instructor, Master of Science Program in Information and Knowledge Strategy, Columbia University (US):

“I have two recommendations: Working Knowledge by Davenport & Prusak is a classic that everyone in KM should read — several times. I’d also be happy to pass on a recommendation for my blog: AboveandBeyondKM.com. I’ve been writing about KM and the legal industry for 10 years so there’s a terrific archive of useful information for my readers.”

Chris Boyd, Senior Director of Professional Services, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (US):

Some of my favorite blogs are: 3 Geeks and a Law, Above and Beyond KM, Above the Law, Adam Smith, Esq. and Strategic Legal Technology.

Patrick DiDomenico, Chief Knowledge Officer, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. (US):

The book Knowledge Management for Lawyers.   I would also recommend the Knowledge Management for Legal Professionals LinkedIn Group. It has over 9,000 members.

Ron Friedmann, Partner, Fireman & Company (US):

Here is my list of blogs and one book I found relevant.

KM Book: For an excellent deep dive, I highly recommend the 2015 book, Knowledge Management for Lawyers by Patrick DiDomenico, published by the ABA.

For all the sources below, I read via my feed (RSS) reader. I use Feedly. If you want to follow more than a couple of regularly published sources, a feed reader is a must.

Legal AI + InnovationArtificial Lawyer Blog by Richard Tromans. Daily coverage of legal AI, both news and commentary. This is more about AI and innovation than KM – but can we even draw the line anymore?

Legal Tech: KM is not just about technology of course. But KM professionals should stay current on legal tech, especially since so much is happening now. I find three sources useful for regular updates: LegalTech News (ALM), Legal IT Insider (aka The Orange Rag), and Legal IT Professionals. KM professionals might also consider Above the Law: it has noticeably increased its tech and start-up coverage, and also covers the business of law, but if you subscribe to the feed, you’ll get a lot of other content too.

Legal Research and Legal Start-Ups: KM also often touches on legal research. I read Lawsites (Bob Ambrogi) and Dewey B Strategic (Jean O’Grady). Bob also provides excellent coverage of legal tech start-ups and other topics.

Legal Business: KM professionals should stay current on developments in law practice management, legal operations, and firm management. For the big picture and strategy, I read Adam Smith, Esq. (Bruce McEwen), Law21 (Jordan Furlong), Legal Mosaic (Mark Cohen), and Legal Evolution (Prof. Bill Henderson).

In addition, members of the Knowledge Management Content Coordinating Team recommended the KnowItAALL Newsletter, Wired Magazine, and PinHawk Daily newsletters for Legal Tech and Library.

If you have recently read or listened to or seen something you found valuable, please share your thoughts.  And if anyone recommends one of the many subscription services (e.g., GetAbstract, Summary.com, or Business Book Summaries), please let us know.

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