Law and leadership in turbulent time

LondonLawExpo 2018

I had the pleasure to speak at theLondonLawExpo 2018. About leadership and disruption. Fascinating. I used to think that law was boring. I now believe they will be at the forefront of some exciting business opportunities, as we move from the focus on technology to making sense of technology and considering its impact on society. Because that means regulation and that means law firms.


 I talked about leadership. Based on concepts of what 100 of the best business thinkers have been writing about.


I used five props:

  1. A chess board
  2. Lego
  3. A pendulum
  4. A lens
  5. “Lord of the rings”, the best book ever written.

It is not about technology

I work with a lot of CEOs. I used to think that for a CEO to be successful it was about understanding technology and future trends. I was wrong, there is no need, they are very aware.

It is not always about avoiding pain

The for a while I thought it was about making the hard decisions. Where lots of CEOs are not willing to take the pain. Have you ssen the first Jack Reacher movie?

Jack Reacher and leadership

There is a scene where the Russian Don, who has survived labour camps in Siberia, gives one of his gang members a choice. Chew off your fingers or get the bullet. The guy couldn’t do it and gets the bullet. I used to think that CEOs could not chew off their own fingers off, i.e. making some very painful decisions.


I now have realised that it is all about leadership. Most CEOs do not know how to lead. They are isolated and alone. Not helped by the companies organisation structure, legacy systems and an outdated culture.


As a leader and CEO, the first thing you need to understand is exponential. Hence the chess board. The story of the Persian King. A mountain of rice the size of 10X rice production in the world on the last square of the chessboard. We are on the second part of the chess board.
Moore’s law on steroids. Is best described in “The second machine age”. Moore’s law is everywhere. In every technology or science, you can imagine. nano, biology, genetics, robotics, AI, blockchain, IoT, you name it.


Let’s focus on AI for a second. You all know Watson, the IBM AI. The computer that won Jeopardy.  How many pages do you think it can read? It can read 800 million pages per second. Every second. Forever. It can also listen to podcasts and watch videos. It can read the unstructured content that is 80% of the internet.

What is the success rate of a top surgeon in making the right diagnosis?

It is 50%. Watson is now at 80%. Whom do you want to be diagnosed by? Do clients want you as a lawyer or Watson?


Audi has two AI cars that have bee programmed to drive a circuit in Germany. Both are programmes exactly the same way. One car has a more aggressive drive style than the other. They have no idea why/ The ghost is in the machine.


Here is one. Google has 3 AIs. They have asked two AIs to talk to each other on an encrypted channel. They asked the third to break the encryption. It can’t. So we have now two AIs talking to each other, and we have no idea what they are talking about.

Here is a something to think about. If an AI had taken over, would it let us know? That is from a book called “The 7th sense”.

Lego and law

Blockchain will make everything transparent, IoT will make everything traceable. Not only do we have Moore’s law, but we also have the lego effect. Everything is becoming interchangeable. For example combining AI, blockchain, genetics and climate change.


Imagine a company that uses AI and genetics to track DNA in a human body. This is interesting because they have found that the residue of what the chemical industry has put into the environment are now in our bodies. And there are now technology where they can now be found in your cells and traced back to individual companies.

DNA testing

Imagine all the Law Expo participants being tested on those traces. And in some (10%) we will find those traces. Now imagine sueing the company. A class-action. Supported by crowdfunding, PR and Social Media.


We start with chemicals and work our way up to all the polluters. Automating DNA testing, combining it with AI, big data and machine learning, making it scaleable.

Investor lined up

As we learn we tick off all the polluters. Eventually suing Coca-Cola for plastic in our oceans. You are going to make a fortune. In fact, I have an investor lined up, interested in this concept. We are going to make a fortune.


With everything, it is all about action and reaction. The pendulum. As CEO you need to learn to think things through in their extremes and consider the reactions. So applying lego and the chess board and imagine what is possible and it is science fiction becoming science fact and then consider the counter to that. For example:

What as a response to technology do most of us have on our floors?

Wood, we are going back to nature.

What are the responses to Social Media and constant distraction?

Slow flow and mindfulness.

As a CEO you need to understand the pendulum and take a position.


The problem with all these developments is that is difficult to make sense of it, or even track it. Which means you need to filter and simplify.

Hard and soft trends

There are two ways. There are hard trends and soft trends. Hard trends are statistics, demographics, regulation, facts. Soft trends are maybes. AI is a hard trend. Climate change is a hard trend. Blockchain is a hard trend. Bitcoin is a soft trend.


And you need a lens. A concept we developed and use all the time, is what we call the strategic box. You can’t comprehend the ocean. It is too big. So you need to build a boat with a glass hull. The frames of the hull will help you to divide what is relevant. Here we are starting to move closer to leadership. Your job as a leader is to help define your company, but also yourself, by 6 or 7 statements.

What do you think is the most important success factor in growing and scaling a company?

To grow and scale you need a BTP. Big transformative Purpose. Read “Exponential organisations

Strategic box

The 7 statements are:

  1. Your BTP, the purpose, the reason why do you exist.
  2. Vision, the youtube clip of your company in 5 years. You can only do that when you have an understanding of the trends and the pendulum.
  3. Your passion
  4. Your values, or guiding principles. Read “Principles“, where Ray Dalio brings it even further and developed a whole company around mapping and analysing decisions and translating them into principles or another word which is “algorithm”. Which makes it automatable, faster and scalable.
  5. Your positioning, reputation, brand
  6. Your resourcing, it is no not only money and time but also your soft balance sheet. Culture, NPS, community, brand, investment in training, IP, etc.
  7. Sales. We do need to make money.  Read “Aligning strategy with sales“.

That is the frame. What is inside the frame is relevant. What is outside you can ignore(ish). Always be careful of “The filter bubble”. Remember when you bought your last car? Suddenly there are a lot of those same cars on the road. That is what filtering does. It allows you to see.

Write it down together

As statements. Written down. Preferably developed across the company. The direction of the boat is determined by the daily/weekly/monthly targets and the vision.


A lot of companies are now starting to use OKRs. Objective and Key Results. The lesson here is that OKRs only work when everyone knows where we are going and that we are all singing off the same home sheet.

Lord of the rings

Which brings me to “Lord of the rings”. Leadership is storytelling. It is the Lindy effect. Reintroduced by Naseem Taleb. The author of “Antifragile”. Things that were true 5000 years ago are likely to be true for another 5000 years. Storytelling has been the medium to convey messages for hundreds of thousands of years. They still are. More so now than ever. With technology and social media killing our attention span (and the book to read is “Technology versus humanity”, the only thing that still cuts through and sticks, is a good story. So what stories are you telling as a CEO? Are they compelling? Are they authentic and believable? Because our mirror neurones will pick up BS in a split second.

Age old principles

We are going back to age-old leadership principles. Back to the Spartans in ancient Greece. Principles such as leading by example and skin in the game. Lessons from the military and sports. If you don’t work well together as a team, you die, or you lose. Things like character, no assholes, common purpose, integrity, fitness, humility and leaving a legacy. The All Blacks purpose is to leave the jersey in a better place. Are you leaving your company and all the stakeholders in a better place?

Get picked as the captain

Your job as a leader is to make sure they pick you as a captain. To find a goal or purpose that we all can aspire in, to make us believe in it and to lead from the front. Very simple. If you have played sports, you will understand. Getting to get everyone to work together toward a common goal and purpose. Wanting to be part of the story.

Sharing is caring

That means that if you are an asshole, you are not going to make it. If you are not fit, you are not going to make it. But if you do it right, leadership become something that is shared by everyone. People working with you instead of for you.You are not the only one taking the pain. Leadership becomes a collective mindset. When that happens, your business becomes family, faster, more resilient, more innovative, more profitable and capable of dealing with all the changes that are coming your way. You will become the disruptor.


I will leave you with one last image. Metronomes. Put them all in the same room at different speeds and eventually they all move in sync. As a CEO you are the metronome of your business. If you are happy, calm, authentic, fit, passionate and full of belief, the rest will follow.

Free stuff

If you want a copy of the PP slides, e-mail me at If you want to subscribe to my e-zine, go to If you want to download the books for free, go to and use “londonlawexpo18” as the discount code.

sensemaking cover


Sense making; morality, humanity, leadership and slow flow. A book about the 14 books about the impact and implications of technology on business and humanity.

Ron Immink

I help companies by developing an inspiring and clear future perspective, which creates better business models, higher productivity, more profit and a higher valuation. Best-selling author, speaker, writer.

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