How can we help people buy into change?
This is one of the most common questions we hear from leaders and team members 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 support adoption by key 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 (or change) when certain positive factors are present. These factors include:
- Credibility. The innovation is endorsed by a credible person, group, or institution.
- Clarity. The innovation is clearly understood by the potential adopters.
- 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.
- Feasibility. The innovation is perceived as being feasible to implement.
- Testability. The innovation can be tried on a limited basis prior to full-scale adoption.
- Adaptability. The innovation can be adapted for the local setting based on insights from adopters.
If we are able to design change in ways that address most or all of these seven factors, we have a better chance of helping people embrace change – or diagnosing why they might resist it.
So the next time you are making a pitch for change, ask 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 feasible to implement? Can people try it before they fully adopt it? Can people adapt it for the local setting? Few changes meet all of these criteria at once. But to the extent you can optimize the design to address these questions, you will have a better chance of success.