Most companies, as well as individuals, suck at innovation because they suck at change. Why? First and foremost, succeeding at change requires open mindedness because if you aren’t open to new ideas how can you expect others to be open to yours.
Innovation only happens when people adopt an idea, and getting people to adopt new ideas is very hard because it is very much a social process where people change their minds and their behavior. This means innovators have to find ways to get people to open their minds; otherwise no one will adopt their idea.
What does it take to change people’s minds?
From The Economist:
In his book “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion“, Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at New York University, observes that most of the moral reasoning people do is oriented not towards discovering the truth, but towards justifying their beliefs to others in their social group. “Moral reasoning is more like a politician seeking votes than a scientist seeking truth,” Mr Haidt writes. “We are obsessively concerned about what others think of us.” For the most part, people select their moral beliefs the way they select their clothes, asking themselves whether this or that opinion is appropriate to their identity and how it will look to their friends. When they do engage in moral reasoning, they do it to justify taking the position necessary to fit in. If people’s moral stances are shifting rapidly, it is because they are getting signals from others in their group that a different belief is now acceptable.
So, the reason we can’t change people’s minds is simple: one does not change the direction of a herd by lassoing horses one by one. Individuals, by and large, do not change their minds; groups do.
Innovators intuitively understand this, still that doesn’t make it any easier to change people’s minds; and they don’t deliberately try to. Instead, innovators use a variety of ways to get people to change:
- They point to an interesting destination;
- They make people care;
- They change the context;
- They propose a new identity;
- They build habits.
As an innovator, resistance to change is one thing you can count on to always be there; so understanding how people are influenced is critical for innovation. But there is one thing you can count on to get people to change their minds: people want guidance – they don’t want to feel controlled.