Innovation is change by its very nature and so it brings out energy, both positive and negative. The positive energy is from all the people who get excited about the possibilities. But, there may be as many people who harbor negative energy…your detractors. You might think they are in the way of your success. That reaction is natural. I suggest another way to think about them….they are yet another help to your success.
Hear me out.
- It is natural to fall in love with your new idea and detractors help you get perspective on it. They point out the potential pitfalls and as a result you can make the idea stronger.
- Detractors can have an energizing force to the team as the team rallies to prove their case to the detractors.
- Detractors when they become a fan become a powerful force to help drive adoption. A skeptic who has been heard, whose concerns have been addressed, becomes the best type of ally.
When I was building design thinking at P&G in the mid 2000’s, I had a lot of detractors. At first, I was irritated that they were in my way, but then I calmed my ego down and started to listen and pay attention. I invited one detractor to lunch to “tell me more about his concerns”. As I listened, trying to hold off my debating the merits of his thoughts, I learned a few things that I could do better to make the program better. I invited him to join me in implementing his suggestions. To my surprise, he agreed and became a help to making it more viable. His initial hesitation, followed by his later support, had a strong influence on other people who were hanging back or fighting the change. It was a important lesson for me. When someone disagrees with you, they care. Their care can unlock improvements that you would have missed otherwise. So, next time you are ticked off that someone “just doesn’t get it” and is in the way, try inviting her to lunch and listening. You might just wind up in a better place than before.
Who is fighting you the most? Have you ever just ‘heard them out’. Perhaps now is the time to grab a coffee or lunch and to listen, not defend or persuade.