Why People Resist Our Innovative Ideas and How To Overcome It

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September 7, 2020

Why People Resist Our Innovative Ideas and How To Overcome It

With innovation comes resistance. They define each other. An idea simply cannot be innovative unless it’s met with resistance.

Because of this, we should see resistance as a good thing. It is not a problem to encounter resistance when pitching an innovative idea. We shouldn’t give up when this happens. Rather, we should expect it if our idea is truly innovative.

What we need is a well thought out approach for how to overcome the resistance we will inevitably encounter. This includes knowing what to expect depending on the characteristics of our ideas, the resistors, and ourselves as the innovators. These characteristics will lend themselves to either an increase or decrease in resistance.

Those three groups (the idea itself, the resistor, and the innovator) are the three sources of resistance. As I said, there are factors in each that help us expect how much resistance we’ll meet. What are these factors?

For the innovative idea itself, there are 11 factors to take into consideration. They are as follows:

  1. The relative advantage of the idea. How much value will it provide to customers, the organization internally, and other stakeholders? The more value it provides, the lower resistance will be. 
  2. The inherent risk of the idea. Risky ideas meet with more resistance than less risky ideas. An idea could provide a lot of value but be risky and meet resistance because of that. 
  3. Compatibility: how compatible the idea is with what the company does, its types of products, and its distribution channels. 
  4. Whether the idea is testable. Is there a way for you to figure out how well it works in advance? 
  5. Divisibility: can you do the project in stages or is it one and done? Projects that can be done in stages will meet with less resistance than those with which we have to go all-in, all at once. 
  6. Communicability, or whether the idea can be communicated to other people easily and in a way they will understand. An idea could meet all the other criteria, but if it’s hard to get the point across we should expect higher resistance. 
  7. Complexity: if an idea has many parts, requires lots of coordination, and lots of people have to get involved, there will be more resistance. 
  8. Reversibility: can you stop it and reverse your way out if you chose to? 
  9. The flexibility of the idea. Can you tweak the idea as you go along and is it flexible as it rolls out?
  10. Realization: the time it will take to realize the benefits of the idea. If a company has two projects and one will take a year while the other will take 10 years, the second will meet more resistance. 
  11. The side effects of the idea. Will it take away budget powers, managerial attention, or manpower? The more side effects there are on other projects, the more resistance an idea will get, especially from those departments and project managers.

I have created a downloadable scorecard for you to determine how much resistance your idea will likely meet, based on the above factors. You can download it here and use it before pitching your next innovation.

The second two sources of resistance have to do with people. The first is the resistor, or the person you’re trying to sell your idea to. This person will have characteristics that make them more or less likely to resist your idea. 

The first is whether they are motivated by innovation themselves. If they are, they’re less likely to resist your innovative idea. However, if they aren’t creative themselves, they’re more likely to resist the innovation that you present.

There’s not much we can do about the resistors. It is helpful, however, to be aware of whether they are more or less likely to resist. Expect it from those who are less predisposed to like innovation.

Finally, the third source of resistance is yourself as the innovator. You have certain characteristics that make you more or less likely to encounter resistance. 

The first is how long you’ve been with your organization. If you’re brand new, you’ll likely meet more resistance. 

Additionally, it depends on how well you can communicate your idea. If it’s articulated clearly, you’ll get less resistance. If this is a struggle for you, consider hiring someone else to pitch the idea for you. 

The last factor is similarity. Call out the places where you are similar to the person to which you are pitching your idea. That will increase the effectiveness of your persuasive appeal.

To hear more on why people resist your innovative ideas and how to overcome it, listen to the full podcast episode here: Episode 005: Why People Resist Your Innovative Ideas and How To Overcome It.