I think I’ve covered how hard it is to innovate in the past. I think the main reason it is so difficult to innovate within organizations is that organizations are made up of people. And people fear change. People would instead stick with a horrible product or process that they know rather than change to an unknown, untested product or process, even if it leaps and bounds better than what they are doing now.
Innovation is complex because change is hard. Change is hard because most people fear change. And more people fear change because it’s the unknown.
As innovators, we love the new and different. We don’t fear change; we embrace it. We embrace change, but we have an optimistic view of the future. We can improve things, and change itself can drive us to new and better things. But as I said, most of us work in organizations that are resistant to change.
Sure, one of the reasons they hired you were to change this – to help move your organization forward into the future and help your organization fear to changeless. Maybe you won’t get your organization to embrace change, but at least you can help guide it to a better place.
Maybe you can change a few minds along the way and, in that process, plant the seeds of significant change.
It’s important to realize that this fear of change is a fundamental human trait. I can’t count the number of times I felt so frustrated by the pace of change in the organizations I work with. I’m sure that you’ve felt the same frustration. Take heart in knowing that this is a normal human fear. We are trying to change some of the most fundamental aspects of being human.
The fear of the unknown is deeply ingrained into our psyche, back from our days roaming the savannah. In those days, we fought or ran from the novel. These same feelings are triggered even today when we encounter new things – we need to use our rational brain to keep an open mind to reduce or eliminate our fear of change.
As innovators, we’ve already conquered our fear of change, our fear of the new. And now, we work to help others conquer their fear of the unknown.
Even though innovators come from so many different backgrounds, it almost seems to me that the best innovators understand human beings deeply along with their motives. Maybe a psychology background is the best for those attempting to drive innovation in their organizations. But I digress.
How do we help our fellow humans to fear to change less? First, we need to be gentle. While we’d love to bring in game-changing innovation – and it may be your leader’s mandate to bring in new $1B unicorns, your people would be much happier with incremental innovations to start.
It would help if you had a healthy diet starting with incremental innovation, leading to a supplement of disruptive innovation. Once you’ve proven that you’ve successfully delivered adjacent innovation, stretching that Overton window to allow your organization to get used to the new, you can then try to tremendous and more disruptive innovation.
Sometimes, it works. Other times, your organization snaps back. But you have to try.