How can we help people embrace change?
This is one of the most common questions we hear from health care leaders who are trying to help people move in a new direction. Leading change is rarely easy, but we can improve our chances by designing change in ways that resonate with our stakeholders.
One helpful strategy for designing change is to think of change as innovation. In essence, when we are asking people to change the way they do things, we are asking them to adopt innovation. We know from extensive research by Everett M. Rogers and others that people are more likely to adopt innovation when certain positive factors are present. These factors include:
- Credibility. The innovation is endorsed by a credible person or institution.
- Clarity. The innovation is clearly understood by the audience.
- Advantage. The innovation is perceived to have a relative advantage over the existing or alternative options.
- Compatibility. The innovation is perceived as being consistent with the existing values, past experiences, and needs of potential adopters.
- Simplicity. The innovation is perceived by the audience to be relatively simple vs. complex.
- Trialability. The innovation can be tried on a limited basis prior to full-scale adoption.
- Observability. The results of the innovation can be readily observed by potential adopters.
If we are able to design change in terms of these seven factors, we have a better chance of helping people embrace change, or at least a better chance of understanding why they might resist it. So the next time you are making a pitch for change, as yourself these questions: Is it credible? Is it clear? Does it have a relative advantage? Is it compatible with the audience’s values, experiences, and needs? Is it too complicated? Can people try it before they fully adopt it? Can people observe positive results? If the answers to these questions are authentically positive, you will have a good chance of success.