Obstacles to Innovation in the Office

ObstacleAt times during my career, I have been part of teams that feared new ideas.  In today’s markets, when teams fear trying new ideas, businesses can quickly become outdated.  In order to create a culture that embraces innovation, you have to identify the root cause for team members’ apprehension. I have found some common personalities you may encounter in your efforts to encourage innovation.

  • The Outlier: This person often looks constipated when an idea is raised.  His argument against change is based upon an experience – an idea that was tried in the past and although successful in the overall scheme, had one or two issues.  When the idea of trying the program again is mentioned, this team member brings up, and focuses all his comments on, the exceptions (the outliers).  Instead of trying to fix the one or two hiccups, he prefers to stick with the old ways.  The individual does not appreciate the good that was done but rather draws attention to negative examples as reason not to attempt the idea.
  • The Role Player: New ideas will ultimately change how individuals work and potentially their roles in the office.  Many of us attribute much of our self-identity with our work lives and a change in the latter will impact the former.  Potentially changing how one defines oneself at work can cause the “Role” player to be hesitant to change.
  • The History Major: The “History Major” is the person in the office who responds to new ideas with “But we’ve always done it this way.”  This individual is very comfortable in the status quo and cannot give a good reason as to why processes are in place other than… “We’ve always done it this way.”  When you interact with the “History Majors”, the phrases “Stay the course” and “Don’t rock the boat” are swimming around in their heads. Inertia can be a very powerful force.
  • The Unknown: The “Unknown” individual is a complicated persona as the root to the “Unknown” person is not fully knowing/comprehending/buying into a part/parts of the idea. The issue may be how this new idea will be implemented, how it will work, or what is the desired outcome – some question(s) have not been fully answered for this person to be on board yet.  
  • The “Just One More“: This person is an unusual character.  She appears to be open to change as she recognizes the current mode of operation is not sustainable. The catch is the only ideas she likes are to add more staff or spend more money.  Instead of looking for areas to improve efficiency or eliminating less profitable activities/products, she only pushes for the option of adding staff and/or resources as the ‘change’ that is needed.

Change can be difficult – this is coming from a guy who in the last five months welcomed a baby into the family, moved said family 300+ miles, quit a good job and started a new role, and sold and bought a house.  At times during the last five months, I have been the Outlier, the History Major, the Role Player, etc. in my life and work.  

What are the other anti-change personalities you have come across in your workplace?

Each one of these personalities should be listened to as these people can help you avoid a disaster.  However, there comes a time when change needs to happen and you must learn to get these people to buy into change.

Next: Dealing with the Anti-Changers in Your Office

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About Kevin Monahan

I have 10+ years experience in coaching clients in their career management and career change efforts. Personal career consulting services combined with employer outreach to help find opportunities for both constituents.
This entry was posted in Career Management, Change and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Obstacles to Innovation in the Office

  1. These personas are SO dead on. Hilariously so. I know a lot of “history majors.” Thank you for the engaging and informative read!

  2. Pingback: Overcoming Obstacles to Innovation | Kevin Monahan – Career Seeker's Guide

  3. Pingback: Overcoming Obstacles to Innovation in the Office – Part II | Kevin Monahan – Career Seeker's Guide

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