Question for today: why is it so hard to kill off old methods, tools and processes? We’re in the business of improving, innovating and inspiring. We want to make things better, and we can see how old practices are holding us back and getting in the way. It’s like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole, where they just won’t stay down no matter how much we hammer. We create or discover something new, effective and exciting almost every day, but people just keep on using the old. They just don’t get it. Why is this? Are we doing something wrong?
Of course we are. We must be. We don’t know what it is yet, but we are – because what we want to happen isn’t happening. Simple really. Here’s my opinion. Sometimes I think we’re discounting what people want, because we’ve decided that we know what they need.
Why would someone continue using an old tool or method, when something new is available? Easy – because the old thing works. It’s familiar. It may not be perfect, it may have its little quirks, but they know how to work around those. They believe that what they have is good enough, whereas the new thing is an unknown. It might work, it might not. If it does, there’s a period of adjustment and mistakes are made. If it doesn’t work, there’s all sorts of fallout to manage, and a backlog of work. So why change? Why bother? I’m not blocking, I’m not refusing to change, I’m just saying, why should I? Convince me. Educate me. Tell me why your burning desire to innovate is suddenly my problem. I challenge you.
Unfortunately, our customers are rarely brave enough (or rude enough?) to say these things out loud when we are evangelising. They smile, and nod, and mumble something vaguely positive, and hope we’ll be contained before we do any real damage. And so we go away thinking we’ve made a convert, and as the door closes behind us they sigh with relief and carry on as usual.
In our frustration we see the old idea as the enemy, something that must be killed so the new can flourish … but actually what we should be focusing on is changing perceptions. Our quest is to kill a belief – the belief that the old way is perfectly fine, and the new way isn’t worth the hassle. And the burden of proof is on us, because we’re the ones who want change. We have to present the evidence – statistics, stories, case histories, anything – that shows just how the new idea is going to improve things. And if no such evidence exists? Then it’s back to us again – we need to collect it, analyse it and make it make sense for people. And if we can’t do that, if we can’t find the evidence to support what we claim, or the data points a different way … maybe the faulty beliefs in this equation are ours.