There’s an overwhelming amount of change in organizations today. Transitioning to new technology, on a small or large scale, can be daunting, and when combined with a high volume of change in other parts of work, can be the final straw, with decision makers choosing to stay with the status quo even if it no longer serves the needs of the organization. As Deloitte notes in their 2017 Global Human Capital Trends Report, companies are seeing digital technologies as a key element of the disruption they’re facing. Your clients need to breakthrough any resistance they have to technology change if they are going to be competitive. The same is true for you as well.
If you or your clients struggle with technology, you’re in good company. In a survey of American adults in 2015, technophobia, or fear of technology, ranked higher than fear of death or public speaking (and interestingly, also clowns). While struggles with technology change might not be at the “phobia” stage for you or your clients, consultants often see pushback from clients or prospects when technology change is an element.
Years ago, I started my career by teaching people how to used Windows-based software, including how to use a mouse for the first time (yes, I am that old). Seeing how people reacted during and after these training sessions formed much of my early perspectives on workplace change, particularly with new technology. Some people were enthusiastic and jumped right in, while others held back. Some figured it out in the first try, and others needed more practice, instructions, or guidance. For those who struggled with adapting to new tools, their reluctance stemmed more from a need for additional information than their colleagues required, rather than a need to label themselves as “change resistant.”
Change Resistance Is A Myth
Concerns about trying new technologies, particularly if couched in “we are too busy for this” language, may simply be an indicator for underlying change overwhelm or a lack of change skills, whether individually or at an organizational level.
If you follow Niels Pflaeging’s work (and you should—hearing him speak live is on my bucket list), he is adamant that the concept of change resistance is counter to our understanding of social science and human behavior. As he eloquently writes, “The more resistance to change you observe, the more likely it is that your methods suck.” If people aren’t buying the change you’re selling, you’re doing it wrong.
As Sara Saddington noted in her recent article on organizational agility, anxiety about change is more about feelings of uncertainty and powerlessness. No one wants change to be done to them, they want to feel in control of the change that is occurring. Instead, bringing people closer to the change—having them involved in the planning, allowing them to voice their concerns and understand how they’ll be supported through the change—are all critical elements of helping people feel more comfortable.
Develop A Change Mindset
In Mindset, Carol Dweck, who is considered to be a leader in growth mindset thinking, argues, “The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.” Many people have preconceived ideas about whether or not they are “good at technology,” and being more open-minded about change through a “growth mindset” lens is critical.
People need to see themselves as adaptable first, and weaving conversations about technology into workplace discussions can help normalize technology change as a regular, ongoing activity. This might mean finding ways to integrate it into existing team meetings or discussions. Suggest to your clients that they consider introducing a tech tools “lunch and learn,” where team members share apps or other tech tools that have helped them improve their work. There may be new ways to leverage existing tools, like intranets or wikis, where team members can share their experiences. You can also encourage your clients to integrate discussions about their tools and technology into their regular one on one meetings.
Make It Safe To Change
As John Cutler notes in his article on how psychological safety and trust levels manifest in various ways within teams, “Safety unlocks the ability for the team to reflect, take on difficult challenges, and have difficult discussions.”
You’ll need to encourage your clients to look closely at how teams handle failure in their organizations. If people are fearful of significant consequences of failing, instead of understanding that it’s a normal part of skill development, it will be difficult for them to be open-minded and excited about introducing new technology to their work.
As Paul Gibbons notes in The Science of Successful Organizational Change, learning agility can become a critical element to team effectiveness for individuals who have “the ability and willingness to learn from experience and subsequently apply those lessons to perform optimally in new or first-time situations.” If your client teams can understand how to evaluate past changes and learn from their outcomes, the experience—whether positive or not—becomes the basis for more effective change going forward, with all change outcomes becoming beneficial.
Be A Technology Change Role Model For Your Clients
As you think about how to help your clients become more receptive to new technologies, first take an honest look at your own attitudes to change. How do you handle incorporating new technology or changes in your work? Where can you make improvements in how you adapt?
If you’re reluctant to try new technology tools or apps, ask yourself why this might be the case. Are you procrastinating because you’ve had a bad experience in the past? If yes, in the spirit of “there are no bad outcomes, only opportunities for learning,” ask yourself what would need to happen differently next time. If you haven’t spent time focused on the technology side of your business, try joining a tech community like Product Hunt, or ask for advice from tech-savvy friends.
Technology doesn’t have to have a doom and gloom, “let’s not do this” vibe. If change, and the trial and error that comes with it, can be a natural part of work, there’s nothing to fear. Even if we fail, we know we won’t be judged, and the consequences for trying it disappear. If the argument (for yourself or for your clients) is “I don’t have time,” dig deeper to find the blocks that are preventing ongoing adaptation and interest in change, and take steps to remove them.
Technology change is here to stay. Those who figure out how to make it an integrated part of their work will no doubt be able to use those same strategies for agility in other parts of their businesses as well. You just need to take the first step and lead the way.