Langdon Morris, in “Slow Down to Speed Up”, points out recent experience with introducing change into the education sector. He concludes, “Slow down to speed up is thus an innovation strategy when the controlling context is created by social dynamics rather than technological ones.”
This is true. But anyone responsible for driving innovative change must remember that this technique can be usefully applied to any situation. The dynamics of change are similar in any environment. Four basic requirements must be met if the environmental resistance to change is to be successfully defeated:
- Problem – There must be a recognized reason to change. If the audience feels no pain in maintaining the status quo, there is no fundamental reason to consider change.
- Vision – There must be a vision of what the improved state should look like. Without such a view into the future state, people will be stuck feeling both the pain of the issue and the frustration of feeling that it cannot be improved.
- Action – It is usually the case that the vision of the future is too difficult to achieve in a single step. Here is where Mr. Morris’s observation plays a key role. Unless it is possible to define that next step to move closer to the vision, people are usually unable to break the inertial pull of inaction. Breaking down the path to the vision overcomes this problem. Interestingly enough, it is often the case that the full path doesn’t need to be defined. Knowing the next step provides enough confidence in the future to make it seem possible.
- Cost – The pain of change must be perceived as lower than the pain that is being removed through change.
When these conditions are met, change can occur. Whether you are trying to effect change to implement a specific innovative idea, or whether you are trying to establish a culture of innovation for your organization, these change dynamics should always be kept in mind.