Have You Got the Time?

In Is Timex Suffering the Early Stages of Disruption? Grant McCracken describes the crowd-funding approach taken by bespoke watchmakers, Hudson Watch Company and asks whether this business model challenges longstanding watchmaker Timex in the marketplace. His point isn’t that this small upstart is a threat to Timex, but that Hudson’s arrival in the market creates an opportunity for the old guard to reexamine their business models and assumptions about consumers and the marketplace they operate in.

McCracken suggests that the questions for Timex to ask are:

  1. “What could HWC be telling me about the world? What’s out here that I can’t see?”
  2. “What is HWC telling me about my assumptions? What’s in here that I can’t see? What prevents me from seeing this noise as signal?”

When there is change on the horizon, or indeed, right under your nose, these are good questions to ask.

In the context of the legal marketplace, one might ask the same questions about alternate business structures in England and Wales, about legal process outsourcing, whether domestic or international or even about increased reliance on paralegals. What are these marketplace changes telling us about the demand for legal services? What else is happening out there to drive these changes?

Then, turning the questions inward, ask what do these changes in the legal marketplace tell you about your own assumptions and biases? What are your own deeply held beliefs that prevent you from seeing these innovations as disruptive?

McCracken suggests that the watch industry is on the cusp of disruptive change, and notes that:

“To contend with disruptive change, we want to see innovations as early as we can. But in the early days, all innovations look more or less the same: they are odd, implausible, and in some cases, ludicrous. This makes us our own worst enemy. We can’t see disruptive change in its infancy because we are captives of our ideas and instincts.”

In my view the watch industry has already been seriously disrupted, though perhaps they’ve not yet noticed as McCracken contends. I have a basket of watches – maybe a dozen – all with dead batteries and it’s been a couple of years since I last wore a wristwatch. My parents gave me my first watch when I was 9, but I don’t expect that my 9 year old will ever need or want one.

Similarly, the legal profession, long held captive by our ideas and instincts about the legal marketplace, has also been and is continually being disrupted, particularly by technological innovations, changing consumer attitudes and global economic conditions.

Maybe it’s time to stop looking at our watches and rather begin paying attention to what consumers of legal services are really saying. Then, we will need to honestly examine ourselves to determine what exactly holds us back from embracing the changes already in progress and those innovations still out of sight.

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