Friday, October 5, 2018

Understanding why people are reluctant to try new ideas

For those who are wired to innovate and bring change the resistance they encounter from others can be frustrating. This is especially true when change is critical to the organization or when doing things differently would save a great deal of time, money and frustration. We ask ourselves in these instances, "Why don't they get it?" It is a good question and it has three good answers. 

First, there is the change scale. When it comes to one's openness to change people fit into one of five categories: Innovators who drive change and are always looking for new and better ways; Early Adaptors who embrace change quickly once it is presented; Middle Adaptors who need to think about the change before adopting it; Late Adaptors who are late to embrace any change and Laggards who resist any change. 

Of these categories which represent how people are naturally wired, only innovators and early adaptors quickly embrace change. the other three categories are essentially change resistant at different levels. Thus any strategy to drive change must speak to middle and late adaptors. One need not worry about innovators and early adaptors. As for laggards, don't bother to try to convince them - they are inconvincible when it comes to change.

Resistance to change has nothing to do with an individuals character or intellect. These categories represent how they are naturally wired. The key to helping middle and late adaptors get to a yes on change is to appeal to a higher value than their resistance to change. If they deeply believe in the mission of the organization, for instance, one can appeal to the ability to better accomplish that mission if we adopt the proposed changes. 

A second reason that people resist change is their own comfort. People simply get comfortable doing things in certain ways and changing those ways can be uncomfortable. It is far easier not to rock the boat and to leave things as they are. After all it has worked in the past so it will work in the future. Except of course, the future is different than the past and those who don't understand this are destined to lose their effectiveness. 

Resisting change for one's own comfort is not a noble cause and those with this tendency should not be in organizational leadership. Leaders realize that their loyalty is to the mission of the organization, not their comfort. 

There is a third reason for resistance to change which change agents need to understand. There are people who resist change because they cannot envision what it looks like. These are people who understand new paradigms when they see it but cannot envision those paradigms without first seeing it. 

In these cases simply be aware of the fact that the change resistance is not a poor attitude but that these individuals need to see the new way in action and are likely to support the change once they understand it.

Part of the job of change agents is to understand how their audience is likely to respond to the change and to tailor their communication in ways that will allow the most people to get to a place of support. They need to be change agents in communicating their proposed changes - and flexible in their approach.


TJ Addington (Addington Consulting) has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at tjaddington@gmail.com.





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