Innovation Obstacle: Most People Don’t Like New Ideas

You have a new idea and it’s great! And yet, people are slow to adopt it. In fact, sometimes it seems like they hate it – it would actually be an improvement if they were only indifferent.

Why does this happen? It’s a common problem, and it doesn’t really matter what kind of idea it is – the same thing happens with new things, new ideas, new ways of doing things and new ways of organising a business model. This reluctance to adopt new ideas is a major obstacle to innovation.

Seth Godin talks about how strange it is, and how novel historically, for people to buy something for the first time:

If you are trying to grow your coaching practice or b2b saas business or widget shop, understand that you are almost certainly pushing against a significant barrier: most people hesitate before buying something for the first time. If you’re trying to develop trade in the underprivileged world, understand that teaching people to buy anything for the first time is a revolutionary concept.

And most of what gets sold to us each day at work or at home are switching products. “Ours is just like the one you already use, but cheaper/better/faster/cooler.”

The potent mix of fear of loss, desire for gain and curiousity fuel the appeal of buying for the first time. But it’s magic, it’s not science, and it doesn’t often happen on schedule.

What creates that barrier? Here’s what Simone de Beauvoir said about it (from a post by Justine Musk):

The writer of originality, unless dead, is always shocking, scandalous; novelty disturbs and repels.

Novelty disturbs and repels – no wonder it’s so hard to get our great new ideas across. No wonder ideas spread so slowly.

Another problem is that just the same, but cheaper/better/faster/cooler doesn’t really work either. It takes a lot of work to get people to switch.

So what do we do?

Here’s what Umair Haque says (in a post, and in his new book):

The pursuit of more, bigger, faster, cheaper, nastier too often seems to demand putting what, why, and who we love at the end of the list, the underworld of the inbox, the bottom of the heap. That’s a recipe for stagnation, whether for people, communities, cities, countries, or the globe. But the converse might just hold, too: if nations and corporations want to punch past the glass ceiling of mere opulence, to what I call eudaimonic prosperity — lives that are meaningfully well lived — well, then people might just have to begin by making if not radically, then at least marginally more meaningful choices themselves.

People resist new ideas. The only way around this is to give them ideas that really matter.

Here’s some more from Seth Godin on that:

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

9 thoughts on “Innovation Obstacle: Most People Don’t Like New Ideas

  1. I have far different career with either my late father (lawyer;director in telecommunication industry) or my sister (first secretary in Indonesian Embassy in Bern). Then I learn the hardest way to be a researcher and I find reading, writing and observing as hobbies are not enough.
    However, I hope I can change the world.

Comments are closed.