Being on stage in front of some of some of the world’s leading organizations and senior executives, you get the opportunity to address a lot of unique topics.
And with 25 years of doing this, I believe that I’ve highlighted trends from just about every perspective possible! Including, for example, issues involving understanding, managing and minimizing a world of accelerated risk.
So it was that I found myself on stage in front of senior corporate legal counsel for a good portion of the global Fortune 500 at two events in Chicago and Dallas last month, as the opening keynote speaker for the annual Baker McKenzie client conference.
Baker McKenzie is big – it is one of the top global legal firms, with 13,000 employees, of who 4,700 are lawyers, in 77 offices across 47 countries. The client list is simply unparalleled: I had folks from AT&T, Intel, 7-11, Citi, Bell Helicopter, BP, Ericsson, JCPenney, Allstate, JPMorgan Chase, McDonalds, GM, Hyatt, Oracle, Pizza Hut, Southwest Airlines and a few hundred more others in the rooms. (Fun fact: many of the companies at the events are included in my own client base.)
If you are going to speak to a few hundred corporate legal counsel, you’ve got to bring your “A-game.'” With that, my talk focused on 2 key issues: what comes next, and what risks come with that?
To start out, my keynote took a look at ‘25 disruptive trends,’ (a topic which has quickly became one of my most in demand speaking topics through the last year.) I took a look at the core issues leading to a faster world and massive business model disruption and change – everything from the acceleration of science, to what happens when every company becomes a software company; the impact of an increase in the number of business partnerships due to skills fragmentation, and the issues that come from the acceleration of knowledge; not to forget the hyper-connectivity that comes from the Internet of Things and the new business models that emerges a result.
Want some of this insight? Read this post on disruption – it started out as a list of ’10 Drivers of Disruption’ but has grown from there. Or book me and bring me into your organization!
I then spun these trends into the question of : what new risk is emerging in this fast paced world? The thing is, as all this change comes about, we are in an era in which organizations are faced with new risk, unforeseen risk, faster risk, more complex risk, extended risk, and the acceleration of risk!
With that, my keynote on disruption spun into these future issues of risk, such as:
- accelerated risk: simply put, as everything speeds up, risk happens faster, which leads to:
- the rapid emergence of new risk: we are in an era in which organizations are now subjected to the sudden arrival of new forms of risk which did not exist before. How do you develop a legal culture to cope with that?
- hyper-connectivity risk: the connectivity of the Internet of Things (IOT) leads to new forms of shared and hyperconnected risk.
- partnership risk: organizations are struggling with skills issues, and need to partner faster. This leads to more complex – and faster – partnerships, which leads to new forms of partnership risk
- IP risk everywhere: because everyone is becoming a software company, intellectual property (IP) issues go through the roof!
- speed risk: organizations are focused on speed – agile is the new leadership focus. But moving faster requires that they take on more risk that must be managed in new and different ways.
- role risk: the issue of speed and agility is quite contrary to the risk minimization role that most corporate counsel must manage, so there is a significant change in their role.
- regulatory risk: and then there is a regulatory mismatch – organizations are innovating in such a way that is becoming more difficult for regulatory organizations (such as the FDA and others) to understand, manage, or provide a structure for that future risk.
There was much more than I spun into the talk, but it leads to one simple conclusion – we are headed for a world of what I could call “fast legal!” Simply put, both legal firms and corporate legal counsel need to work harder to get faster. (Are they good at this? Not often. Small example: I’m frequently booked by many of the Fortune 500 companies that were in the room. Fun fact – many of them have turned my simple little 3 page speaking contract into epic legal documents that are, I suppose, legal works of art. The record is 42 pages! I refuse to sign such contracts, and they eventually come around and sign mine. Also, most can’t cut a check quick enough for my contract terms, and end up paying me by credit card!)
It was a wonderful event, and met with a great response – there was a lot of this:
But here’s a key point: this is but one example of where I’ve looked at the future of risk.
Over the years, I’ve done numerous talks that have examined the concept of the “future of risk from a variety of different perspectives:
- I led a session for a major global construction/infrastructure company that took a look at new risk issues with such things as smart highways, self-driving cars and other issue, and the risks that unfold in this new era
- I did a talk for Towers Perrin way on accelerating insurance risk, and a similar talk for the Property and Casualty Insurers Association of America
- I took a look at emerging healthcare risks as the headliner for the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management
- I was the opening keynote for a customer event for FMGlobal, a leading underwriter of insurance risk in the commercial real estate space. My talk took a look at a broad range of trends that will impact the future structure of buildings, architecture, manufacturing facilities and more – and of course, the new risk unfolding!
- I even opened the National Firefighter Apparatus Manufacturing Association annual event, which took a look at the rapid emergence of new fire risk, and how we need to plan for that in the design process of future firetrucks. Read more here!
There have been a lot more, too numerous to mention. Gosh, I even wrote an article in 2004 entitled “The Future of Risk”!
One more thing: I love Baker McKenzie, because they are an organization that walks the talk.
As a legal firm, their entire essence and core of being is to a degree, around the issue of risk. How to manage it, guard against it, follow up on it, mitigate it, and litigate it when it goes wrong. With that, what a pleasant surprise to discover that they had a fairly significant social media team — at both events. They blog, tweet, and share insight about the firm, what it is doing and what it is seeing. They obviously have to this very carefully in the context of managing the risk of the message — you live in a unique world in a professional services firm.
The fact that Baker McKenzie does this in such a substantial way blows me away. I’ve never met a professional services firm – and I’ve been booked by virtually all fo the major global ones over the last 25 years — that has such an open mindset to aligning to this fast new world.
Bottom line! Think now about the context of risk — in a world in which the future belongs to those who are fast!