Henry Ford 2.0

When you talk about innovation with someone, there is a big chance that at a certain stage during the conversation, Henry Ford gets quoted. He allegedly said that “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” This quote typically is used to express that meeting the needs of customers requires more than costumers themselves can provide. Innovation requires imagination to come with radically new solutions, and visionaries that help concretise the opportunities new technologies provide.

The justice sector increasingly adopts new technologies. Law firms widely adopt technology that improves their internal processes (legal research, case management, time writing, management dashboards, etc.). Many websites successfully help large volumes of people to get tailored legal documents. Courts increasingly adopt some form of technology.

I observe that deep innovation takes place in the sector that still has its professionals wear black robes and in some countries  even wigs. One of the things I also see happening is that technology is used to create a digital version of existing processes. By replacing paper files and fax machines with pdf files and email. Thus, new layers are added on top of procedures that have not really changed since Napoleon introduced them.

There is a big risk of creating a bugged system in this way, since the core of the design is not optimised for digital. More importantly, it is a waste of a great opportunity to use the full potential of online technologies by not using sufficient imagination and vision to better meet the needs of users of the justice system. Henry Ford maybe would have said that “you cannot put an engine in a horse.”