Seven excuses from people who don't want to change (and how to deal with it)

Pioneering is fun, but can also be exhausting if you run into obstacles all the time. Innovation expert Simone van Neerven lists seven excuses from people who don’t want to change. Including tips on how to handle each situation.

A worlds-first: drug-free psychiatric treatment in a hospital

In 2015, pioneer Ole Andreas Underland opened a psychiatric hospital close to Oslo where patients can opt for drug-free treatment, even those who are involuntarily admitted. This is unique in the world and differs greatly from the usual treatment method. It turned out to be a great success.

After just six months of therapy, patients who had previously spent years in a traditional psychiatric hospital were once again able to live independently. However, this innovative hospital is now in danger of closing. Regular psychiatry feels threatened by this new type of treatment and tries to convince politicians to end the subsidies.

Pioneering often comes with opposition

Being a pioneer is exciting, but it also means that you will face opposition, particularly if you work in a large organization. Then, it can be exhausting, especially when you have a strong urge to make things better. Before you realize it, you are constantly up against people who want to maintain the status quo, even if change is essential for the organization’s survival.

That is because people are typically more concerned about losing their status or position than they are about their employer eventually becoming obsolete. Still, some people can achieve significant breakthroughs. They recognize how they are being thwarted and are able to get opposers on their side.

Seven ways of obstruction

Obstruction manifests in many different ways. Here are seven of them, including how to deal with them.

#1: "This is never going to work"

In every organization, you have people who distrust every idea. They just don’t want to believe it can or should be done. When dealing with these types of people, it is best to demonstrate tangible achievements rather than coming up with an idea. People and especially managers, do not run a risk by rejecting an idea, but they do run a risk if they say no to a successful solution.

#2: "This is not according to the rules"

There are people who have to make sure that the company does not get into trouble. As a result, they make sure everyone complies with the rules and every risk is avoided. This effect is stronger in industries that are more heavily regulated. Involve these people as early as possible, let them clarify what they think the limitations are, and then investigate together potential solutions.

#3: "This is not how we do things around here"

In large, often traditional companies, the majority of managers have a more traditional leadership style. Long ago, they stopped enquiring as to the rationale behind actions. The best tactic in this situation is not to try to convince them yourself, but to contact someone who has this person’s trust while also supporting your initiative.

#4: "These are my contacts"

Often, in a large company, power and influence are inherently tied to one’s territory. Contacts with key customers or suppliers are shielded for fear that someone else may take them over or cover up poor performance.

Do you still need access to these customers or suppliers because they are crucial for the realization of your idea? Avoid confronting your colleague about it. It will only make things worse. The best is to try to achieve some first successes with other customers and suppliers and then inform your adversarial colleague about it. He or she will do anything to quickly jump on board the success train to prevent losing their relationships.

#5: "We will never earn money with this"

They will only support your initiative if the idea immediately and unquestionably makes money. Because they take a significant risk that they can be held accountable for, they don’t prefer to put their hand in the fire for the bigger, more daring innovations.

The information they need to convey to their peers and managers is often not fully evident. Speak with them to find out as soon as you can, and then provide the correct information.

#6: "We've tried this before"

This is something you hear a lot from folks who are incredibly inventive and entrepreneurial. They proposed the same thing years earlier but ran into a brick wall, usually because they were too far ahead of their time or couldn’t handle the opposition they faced. As a result, they became frustrated and now employ sarcasm as a coping strategy.

Speak to them, take your time, pay attention to what they have to say, and get them on board. They have contemplated it for years and have useful knowledge that will help to make it a big success.

#7: "This is a great idea!"

These are the people who say yes to every suggestion but then do absolutely nothing. They trick you to buy some time. Often, you don’t realize this until it is too late. Be mindful of it. Ask specific questions about the activities that they will take, and then check here and there to see if these actions have indeed been carried out.

Get people on board

Obstacles come in all shapes and sizes. There is a simple three-factor formula that can be used to get people on board. There must be a sense of dissatisfaction with the way things are going. The more dissatisfaction there is, the more likely people want to adopt new ideas.

Furthermore, it is critical to have a clear vision of what the situation might look like in the future. This vision spreads more quickly the more appealing and inspiring it is. Finally, it is crucial to know and share the first concrete steps to achieve that vision. Just by simply getting going and adjusting along the way you will convince many people.

Your idea is not that edgy if you don't encounter any obstruction

Resistance is inevitable when you are working on new things. It’s part of it and in fact, if everything goes smoothly you have to ask yourself whether what you want to achieve is truly that groundbreaking. If you can get the people on board who are most opposed to your idea, they will become your greatest supporters and success is guaranteed.

This article was originally published in Dutch on MT/Sprout, the most popular business and management platform in the Netherlands.

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