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Eight myths of innovation from Scott Berkun, illustrated through tiered discounts on billing rates

A thoughtful and useful book, Scott Berkun, The Myths of Innovation (O’Reilly 2010), should correct many of the misimpressions we hold about much-vaunted innovation. To summarize them, this post takes discounts from a law firm that increase as fees increase. Let’s apply the myths to that innovation, since it had to have happened for the first time somewhere.

It is unlikely that some mid-level lawyer leaped up, shouted “Eureka!” and announced the epiphany: “Let’s set tiered discounts.” Nor was there a smooth, progress onward and upward to that novel mandate or an established methodology followed that produced the new concept.

Other myths punctured by Berkun deflate also. Other members of the department probably disagreed with the new idea, found it objectionable, unworkable, even unthinkable. And, the idea for step discounts did not emerge from the fertile mind of a lone lawyer, toiling away in isolation until the grand conclusion was unveiled.

Lots of contending ideas tussled with the discount scheme, and perhaps (or probably), a deputy general counsel or two opposed the new-fangled idea. Meanwhile, a better idea to control costs, such as fixed fees or selection of firms, may have languished while the tiered-discount idea prevailed.

Berkun’s book has a couple of other myths, but the preceding eight impressed me as correct. More important, if we understand the misconceptions we may be able to come up with useful new ideas and turn them into actual successes.

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