We’ve worked with our clients for years to discern the differences between a problem and a paradox. It’s a critical function for leaders. Problem solving methodology involves defining the issues, investigating its causes, developing solutions, and implementing the best choice. The object is to maintain control of the issue. Unfortunately, that is not so straightforward for paradoxes. There are no correct answers. We can’t use the methodology for problem solving; rather one must blend the competing tendencies together and not succumb to one pole or the other. Should the leader fail to manage the paradox, the long-term viability of the enterprise is at risk.
The trick is to discern whether the issue is a problem or a paradox. When there are two or more opposing solutions, with valid reasons for all- that’s a paradox. The standard paradoxes a leader must address can be personal (balancing personal and professional time; tell it like it is or be political), strategic (long term and short term, core processes and new innovations); structural (hierarchical or flat, centralization or diffuse), among others.
By maintaining the balance between competing alternatives, the organization is able to deal with the “new normal” of constant change. It is able to address challenges that arise that were not included in the strategy or expected on the business horizon.
We are about to see if two big guns in the legal arena have been managing their paradoxes well. For the past decade or so, Westlaw and LexisNexis have been duking it out in the legal information arena. This is a big business- on the order of $ 8 billion or so. And, both of these entities have large corporate parents- Thomson Reuters own Westlaw; Reed Elsevier owns LexisNexis. These two firms have been watching each other and retooling their products to insure that the younger generation of lawyers buy into their (fairly expensive) offerings; these barristers have been using Google and want their services to match that model. Westlaw and LexisNexis have been eyeing each other’s offerings and adjusting their services accordingly. Until now…
Their business model is about to undergo a sea change. A big, new entrant- Bloomberg Law (part of Bloomberg LP)- just upset the apple cart. Not only will Bloomberg match the legal case offerings of Westlaw and Lexis Nexis, but it serves up business data to afford information on existing and potential clients- as well as potential defendants. And, instead of a convoluted pricing system used by Westlaw and LexisNexis (use, type of content), Bloomberg Law is priced at a flat fee of $ 450 per attorney per month.
My take is that the smaller firms and solo practitioners (which is where the bulk of the lawyers operate) are going to jump on this opportunity. They will save a bundle. (Users have already said that Bloomberg provides faster and more extensive responses; I have no confirmation of same.) The larger legal firms may not jump ship- both because they are slower to adopt newer offerings and because Bloomberg may be a costlier choice. I’m guessing Bloomberg will modify its price structure to offer discounts for multiples of hundred lawyers.
This is your opportunity to learn from the battles of others. Watch and learn.