Fear of change can make people resist the best of ideas. Keep this in mind when you innovate!

A well known psychologist once said our biggest fear is not about public speaking or dying – no matter what you hear in the media. The number one thing people are afraid of is being forced to change.

This was really brought home to me recently when I was asked to get a group together to explore how we could improve one of our internal systems. Everyone had their own way of working the system, so there should have been obvious savings in time and efficiency if we could agree a process.

Right from the start, though, it was obvious everyone was too invested in ‘their’ area and ‘their’ way of doing things. People bickered between themselves about who had responsibility for what and had fairly heated exchanges about almost everything. It was a real challenge to get them to see why we needed to change and why it could be a good thing.

This explains why innovation can be difficult sometimes. It can be seen as a threat to people in both their status as well as their facing a risk of failure if the change doesn’t work.

I always try to keep the following in mind when I’m trying to implement a new idea:

  • Expect resistance: Know that any new idea will be challenged. There will be people who don’t like it, no matter how good it is. Realize this is natural and keep going!
  • Make it real: Build a prototype and show people how it works. Once there is a physical example and people can understand it better, they’ll be less afraid.
  • Sell the benefits: Show everyone why the new idea is better. Let them see what’s in it for them. Salesmanship is an important part of innovation.Never expect an idea to sell itself.
  • Get support: Form a team around you who are enthusiastic and want to get the idea done. Embrace anyone who ‘gets it’ and make them your new best fried.
  • Start small: Look for easy ways to introduce the idea. Make low-cost introductions and limited runs of products so that you can easily enhance and change as you get feedback from the market. It is easier to make a number of little bets, and then follow up the ones that work best and dropping those that don’t.

The final point is to always remember that by innovating you are actually protecting yourself from the future because it is actually the status quo that is dangerous, not the new idea. The world is full of examples of complacency and fear causing whole industries to become either extinct or inconsequential. Persist in what you are doing and eventually you’ll win people over.