Newmind’s Founder, Daniel Jefferies, spoke on how to manage innovation in the workplace at our Build IT event. Are you an innovator? Is it hard to get support for an idea from your peers? Why is there so much resistance and how can you work around that? All of these ideas and more from his presentation will be touched on below.
It all starts with…
An idea. In Dan’s broad context of what an innovator is, it just starts with a person introducing new ideas, products, or ways of doing things. He reminded us that while we often think of large, historic innovation, such as the accomplishments by the Wright brothers and Nikola Tesla, that innovation can occur on a small scale as well. An idea does not have to be new to the world for it to be new to your company.
Why the hesitation?
Innovators, inevitably, will be met with resistance. They get faced with resistance that often looks something like this:
- “But, this is the way we’ve ALWAYS done it.”
- “Our industry doesn’t work like that.”
- “What if it doesn’t work out?”
So, what’s the reason behind this reluctance? Dan narrowed it down to 2 things:
- confirmation bias
- loss aversion
It’s important to be aware of these psychological tendencies so you can easily point them out when they occur.
After making a decision, it’s easy to just focus on all of the reasons why that decision is right versus look at opposing evidence. This tendency to avert your eyes can be harmful to your business because it can prevent you from seeing potentially harmful or helpful things.
This is another very human tendency which basically acknowledges that there is more motivational power behind the fear of losing than there is in the hope of gaining. Wow! This fear can sometimes keep us anchored, too cautious to move forward.
The how & who
Now, let’s say you have an idea. What do you do with it? Well, the first step is to experiment with it yourself! Afterward, gather what you’ve learned from it and then guess what? Do it again. And again. Be thorough because, chances are, the more you’ve learned and experimented with it yourself, the more convincing you’ll be when you present it to others.
In terms of convincing the organization, first you should be aware of who it’s actually made up of.
- Early majority
- Late majority
The early majority is that group of people who want to wait and see the idea get a little traction before they jump on board. The late majority are those who wait until most people have ran with the idea and when it starts to feel inevitable, then they’ll come around. The laggards, well, it is what it sounds like. These guys will hold tight, resisting as long as they can. Though doing new things may not be a strength of theirs, being cautious to risk is, so it’s important to acknowledge them and meet their needs through this process.
“I don’t know the key to success but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” – Bill Cosby
No matter what, you’ll meet resisters. Don’t let that determine the success of your idea. Who should you please, then? Dan said it’s those people who are moving the organization forward. Those are ones who need to be empowered to continue doing so.
Of course there’s a method to implementing a new innovation within your organization.
Identify & empower the innovators/early adopters
Whether you use surveys or ask pointed questions to identify people who have innovative behavior, these are the ones who you want to be your pilot team. Once that’s built, they are the ones you need to recognize in your organization for having this kind of knowledge so that others feel comfortable in going to them rather than going managers concerning this new idea.
Equip the majority
Through clear communication and various training resources, equip the majority to be successful in this change. Not only that, but make sure to do this prior to the change going live.
Identify & pacify the laggards
In acknowledging where they are at, go to them and provide extra help. Dan suggested to develop compatibility strategies to help them move forward in as comfortable of a way as possible.
Challenges & success
In running with this innovation, different challenges could crop up. Primary examples he expanded upon include:
- Support of leadership – finding someone with more power to vet your idea
- Change fatigue – rejection due to all the other changes that that are occuring simultaneously
- Age of workforce – sometimes old age or the length of time spent in an organization can create a lot of confirmation bias
- Industry – some tend to be more resistant than others
- Geography – certain geographies, for one reason or another, are more hesitant as well
At the end of this change, look at the numbers of those who support the idea versus those who are detractors and still think it’s bad. Which one is higher? It goes without saying that if the number of champions is higher, then hey, it seems like a pretty successful adoption. It’s important to remember, Dan said, that a successful project doesn’t mean that there are zero detractors.