Seth Godin reminds us today about the ubiquitous defenders of mediocrity. You know the ones. Once a great initiative is identified, these antagonists squirm out dark corners to erect barriers to progress.
We all know them. Motivated by their own agendas to protect their interests, they agitate to find reasons to maintain the status quo rather than consider the benefit of inspired change that will create new value. Perhaps, one is a product manager who feels threatened by the new direction. Another might be an engineer who takes umbrage at the suggestion that there might be a better way than what has been the practice of the past. The variations on the theme are endless, and so it is that often innovation is crushed by the forces of mediocrity.
You don’t have to accept this sad situation; you mustn’t accept it. Innovation practitioners must stand strong against the seemly overwhelming challenge of those who would stop progress. It is not always easy, but the result of ruthlessly pursuing the right vision is a reward that makes the effort worth while.
Some tips to help overcome these obstacles include:
Understand who the opposition is – Don’t take it personally, these people are not erecting barriers because of you; they are reacting to the threat of change. Identify the naysayers and feel their pain. If you can see the world through the same lens that they do, you will understand how to disarm their arguments.
Challenge your opponents in the free market of ideas – While the ranks of the defenders of mediocrity may be very deep, there are plenty of people who will be receptive to the value proposition you are bringing. Find the channels to reach these possible allies and endorsers; get your message out there and proactively diffuse the assaults that you know will come.
Find champions to join you in the fight – As you find high level endorsers for your initiative, don’t be shy about enlisting their active support in the battle. Build a force for change, and create visible momentum around the innovation agenda.
The path to success in every organization is unique. As innovation practitioners, we need to understand the nature of this path and stick to it. While it can be struggle, success will come to those who tenaciously drive forward on that path with a message of strong value creation.