Innovation implementation and resistance to change
One way or another, every company is tackling innovation to adapt to technological changes, find new ways to deliver value and ultimately, gain competitive advantage.
Each company is on the lookout for people, knowledge, tools, and methodologies that will support them in this journey. Nonetheless, there is an important aspect that may jeopardize the implementation of the project even though you have chosen the best tools and have enough resources; this is resistance to change.
Resistance to change is present among various actors. Upper and middle management, staff, partners, and of course, end-users/clients (remember when we talked about the people’s factor of digital transformation?). This article explores the reasons for resistance and what are the most critical implementation triggers you should focus on.
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Looking at people’s basic needs is a way to understand resistance to change and innovation.
Based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (psychology motivation theory), we can easily understand why a disruptive change, or an innovation challenging the foundation of one’s activity, encounters resistance. Let’s take two specific needs (that generate deficiency when unmet):
1. Basic need: security and safety
2. Psychological need: prestige and feeling of accomplishment
Innovation troubles the inner need for security of customers (also valid for staff and management) because it changes something that they already had assimilated into their environment. A new stimulus triggers the gatekeepers of our minds, requiring us to have an opinion about it, unlearn something that was already automated, and re-learn how to do it differently. Even in the case where it is for the best (safer, more efficient, more comfortable use), people still have to put some energy into it. And I mean, the smallest effort is already something for our lazy selves.
Transformation programs challenge the psychologic needs of prestige and accomplishment of middle management and staff. Put in simple; people might interpret (consciously or not) that you are telling them that what they are doing right now is not enough, or not good enough.
So, what if we look more into the reasons and manifestations of resistance.
1. Middle management feels threatened and challenged:
there is this archaic belief that the boss is the one having all the ideas. Encourage employees to share their suggestions and middle management could interpret that (again, consciously or not) as rivalry