Andy is the founder and Worldwide Chairman of the Law Firm, which is a global company that operates through twenty-one nodal hub locations.
He is also the author of the book, Creative Company, which at the time of it’s release (1999) offered up a rogue set of challenges to the working model of the advertising world. I first read Creative Company after Seth Godin recommended it in All Marketers are Liars and I quickly understood why Godin liked the book. Andy has a never ending inquisitive nature about him, and isn’t afraid to question the most time-tested of systems (In this case, Business).
It’s 10 years later and I had the chance to catch up with Andy to pick his brain again about the future of work and to find out if he has any thoughts about what is on the horizon.
1. What happened at St. Lukes? Why did you decide to part ways with the company?
Andy Law: I was the wrong guy to lead the next stage of St. Luke’s life. There were co-owners there with a different take on the future. It was about their future, not mine.
2. You are now the founder and Worldwide Chairman of the Law Firm. Could you give us quick synopsis of what the Law Firm is?
AL: My second book, Experiment At Work, outlined how you could see a company as a social network. The interlinking of everything we know needed a new model. Anita and Gordon Roddick sat down with me and we thrashed out what a future looking organization might look and feel like. In spirit with my past activities I wanted a network that took the best of the world’s thinking without the onerous management structure that so often goes with global organizations. So The Law Firm is a franchise operation, offering creative communications around the globe.
3. How much if any of the theology at the Law Firm can be traced back to St. Lukes?
AL: Well St. Luke’s was about Liberation Management and fair return on sweat equity. The Law Firm has these times 10.
4. What’s different about the Law Firm versus St. Lukes?
AL: The Law Firm is global. But beyond that I feel it unfair to make comment because I don’t really know what is happening at St. Luke’s. It is, rightfully, a different company now.
5. What role does technology play at the Law Firm?
AL: The operational protocol at The Law Firm is based on internet protocol. With Open Source Creativity we have a proprietary internet tool to help us work together. The company is totally reliant on technology.
6. In recent years, concepts such as ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment), working from home, and Telecommuting have begun to gain some traction in the business world. How do you see this fitting into the future of work? And does this reduce the Law Firm’s need for Nodal (satellite) locations?
AL: We are working towards a totally new way of working. By September we will be using the city as our workplace. There has been so much private/public investment in city architecture and spaces, we will be using the entire city as our workspace. More on this nearer the time……………….
7. I pulled a quote from the Law Firm website which says, “It takes an honest ad agency to say advertising won’t always work for you.” With the fragmentation of the media industry, are you having to say this to clients more often?
AL: O yes!
8. With the changes in the way that people communicate and collaborate online, marketing and advertising companies are needing to reach out and work with a new type of creative team. What do these “creatives” look like. What are their skills?
AL: Younger, and more generalist in outlook.
9. In your book Creative Company, you talked a lot about the possibilities for the future of work. It has been 9 years (correct?) since Creative Company was published. What does the future of work look like to you today?
AL: Ever more exciting. Economic downturns provide opportunity. Necessity is the mother of invention, but Dissatisfaction is its father. There will be even more organisations created and linked by the internet. Overhead will be reduced and imagination increased as people uses the fabulous resources at hand to create new things. Marx was nearly right. The means of production is now in the minds of the people.
10. In terms of that future, what are you most excited about? What do you see as the biggest threat?
AL: See 9 for what is exciting. Biggest threat is that government does not see and support the new emerging economy of inventive SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises).
This post is part of the Future of Work interview series, discussing the future of work with leading experts from some of the world’s most progressive marketing, advertising and strategy organizations.
Absolutely agree on the SME point. Of the 2.5 million or so businesses in the UK 90% have less than 50 employees (according to ESIF).
I guess very few are also listed companies and the owners therefore have plenty of power to try out some of Andy Law's and Ricardo Semler's ideas.