Corporate lawyers are the guardians of the future … harnessing the megatrends, becoming the new gamechangers.
July 3, 2017
It is often said that lawyers will be one of the first professions to be disrupted, maybe even displaced, by the growing presence of artificial intelligence.
Robot lawyers seem like a bizarre idea.
But when you think about it most of a lawyers activity today is based around information analysis and defined process. Machines can do that.
Lawyers in business have a much more important role.
Whilst they spend most of their time telling you what you cannot do, rather than what you can – and getting you out of trouble when you do the wrong thing – their most important role is as the guardians of intellectual property.
IP is the asset of the future.
It comes in many forms – ideas and strategies, brands and innovations, patents and licenses, customers and contracts. These are the assets by which business can shape its future markets, drive innovation and progress, and creating value short and long-term. Of course, all assets have future value, but IP is the one which can be applied and adapted, its value multiplied many times, limited only by imagination.
Lawyers are the guardians of the future.
But this requires them to step out of the background. To become strategic advisors and drivers of the future business, working with leaders, strategists and innovators, to shape the future together. To use imagination and foresight, to unlock these assets in new and valuable ways.
Much more than an intelligent robot.
So what does the future of business look like?
How can you help your business shape the future to their advantage?
Growth is shifting, innovation is relentless, disruption is accelerating, expectations are high, and social tensions are rising. Making sense, and making use, of these dramatic forces of change will help you to make better strategic choices, shape markets to your advantage, and create a brighter future.
Everyone talks about “megatrends” … so what are the most significant forces of change?
I spent some time comparing the many different approaches to tracking and articulating these patterns of change, to find out which trends are the most common, and the most significant.
Isn’t it obvious? Technology is shaping everything? Yes, but its the implications of that, which matter.
As McKinsey says “the trend is your friend” … It’s the oldest adage in investing, and it applies to projecting future business performance too. Their analysis shows that capturing the waves of change, created by industry and geographic trends, is the most important contributor to business results … a company benefiting from such waves of change is 4-8 times more likely to rise to the top of future performers.
The companies who harness these mega trends, do so in a way that shapes the future to their advantage. They apply their ideas and assets to the challenge in new and imaginative ways – to disrupt markets, to create new business models, and to drive innovation and new growth.
“Gamechangers” range from the new start-ups who have speed and agility to move quickly, who have no fear of breaking rules, and who can challenge huge incumbent companies with only a handful of employees by thinking differently. Digital disruption is everywhere. Think about Netflix in entertainment, Haier in white goods, Tesla in cars, Spotify in music, Paypal in money. Look at WhatsApp creating $19bn of value in 3 years, or Uber $60bn in 6 years, or Alibaba $130bn in 11 years. Their growth is exponential, as is their impact.
Incumbent companies, large and slower to change, have to rise to these challengers, quickly and smartly, and to utilise their emotional intelligence to think more imaginatively and intuitively, to match humanity with technology. GE transforming itself from an industrial to digital company, Amazon over 25 years constantly adapting and growing like a start-up despite its size, Lego embracing digital technologies to stay current in a playful world. Even Apple faces huge challenges from small companies, but also big new ones, like China’s Xiaomi which could exceed its market cap within the next 12 months.
Gamechangers, big and small, harness these mega trends, the new drivers and discontinuities in markets, to think differently. They change the game not just in how they work internally, but also how their markets work. They change what companies do, how value is perceived, and what customers want.
An analysis of the trends in megatrends, shows a number of themes that are repeatedly explored by futurists in seeking to make sense of the big change drivers of the future. They are grouped into 4 themes:
- Disruptive technologies … smart, connected, ubiquitous … digital and data, 3D printing and machine learning, AI and robotics, genetics and nanotech, and much more
Energy and environment:
- Changing energy mix … more renewable, more secure, more expensive
- Shortage of resources … water and food, rare earths and key commodities
- Climate change … preventation and adaptation, even in the face of Trump’s blinkeredness
Economics and politics:
- Knowledge and information … personal education, automation, highly skilled workforce
- Economic shifts … emerging markets, new middle classes, and growing wealth
- Globalisation … connected economies – markets, competitors, customers and owners
- New normal … low interest rates, higher debt, more government intervention
- Multi-polar … diffusion of power, rising nationalism, rise of networks and coalitions
Social and health:
- Demographic shifts … population growth, ageing population, needing more support
- Urbanisation and mobility … mega-cities, smart cities, fast and responsible transport
- Health and wellness … growing expectations, fear of pandemics, burden of ageing
The question for corporate lawyers is simple but profound: How will you step up, to add more value than an intelligent business, to work with colleagues across the business, to be a strategic driver of the future.
How will you change yourself … to be the change … to be the future gamechangers?
- The Future Lawyer, Forbes, June 2017
- Future of Law and Lawyers, Global Change, 2014
- The In-house Lawyer in 2020, Thomson Reuters, 2016
- Technology will replace lawyers, Harvard Business Review, 2016