In every innovation project I’ve worked on for the past 20 years I’ve encountered the same strange phenomenon. Invariably, sooner or later I bumped into a certain type of person who was not amused at all by me meddling into their work. Over the years I found out that these people are informally but closely organised under the name of ‘the anti-disruption committee’. This is who they are:
The head of ‘we’ve tried this before’
These people live in the past. Everything you propose to them brings back memories of past achievements. And especially past failures. Any new idea makes them think of things that went wrong in the past. When dealing with them, you have to keep one thing in mind: you represent pain. You ARE trouble. Hardly a solid basis for collaboration. What I’ve done to deal with them? Make them love what you came to contribute. Which means the insights, the ideas, the new opportunities you contribute can’t remain yours, but must become theirs. So say bye bye to your darlings and hello to co-creation. Patiently involving stubborn people in creating new opportunities and making them feel they’re at the helm: it’s the only way to bring change that lasts.
The director of ‘this will never fly’
These people love old ideas. New ones challenge the exact conventions they are so fond of. Anything you propose to them is greeted with a warm ‘what planet are you from? That will never work’.
So how do you deal with that? Well, remember this is not their problem but yours. It’s your job to help them believe in whatever it is you’re proposing. What has worked for me is using visualisation and prototyping techniques to build the evidence they need. I’ve involved them in creating and testing these prototypes and I’ve let them experience first hand that sometimes, new ideas do fly.
The manager of ‘we don’t need you for this’’
These people know everything they need to know. They see their organisation as a nicely closed bastion: no new knowledge needs to enter as long as no knowledge goes out. Fresh ideas are a waste of time, especially when they come from outsiders. No matter what you advise these people, they will say: “we can do this, we don’t need you, you don’t know us.” So what can you do? Do your homework, show that you really understand them. Realize that your knowledge and insights are additional to theirs. Respect that you may be the expert of the outside world, but they are the expert of their world.
Winning the hearts of the committee
Fortunately, the committee only allows the most fanatic in their ranks. Most of the people I deal with are fully on board with customer centricity and change.
But I’ve come to cherish the committee. They represent exactly what makes service design, customer experience and design driven transformation so very exciting for me. Overcoming resistance. Getting people on board. Gaining trust. Building evidence. Moving things in a direction that’s better for the client, its customers and the planet. Winning the hearts of the committee is not the burden to my work, it’s the essence of it.Read the sequel to the article here