— Digital Workplace Blog —

Leveraging the Psychology of Change to Accelerate Technology Adoption

Posted by Digital Marketing on Nov 9, 2016 4:36:44 PM

Post contributed by Glenn Wastyn

“Take care to get what you like or you will be forced to like what you get."
—George Bernard Shaw

If you’re considering investing in a digital-workplace solution for your company, you may have already built a business case for the purchase. But how much thought have you invested into the strategy for the roll out?  The stark truth is that your investment will be wasted if no one adopts your new collaboration technology.

To add a bit of urgency, the stakes may be higher than just your immediate investment. Failure to adopt new technologies can severely compromise your business. Consider the case of Eastman Kodak, once the undisputed leader in cameras and film. The company, neglecting to adapt in the face of a shift towards digital photography (as well as related printers, software and sharing technologies) began a precipitous nosedive in the 1990s, a decline from which it never fully recovered. According to The New York Times, as of 2015, the company reported a dismal $2B a year in annual sales, compared with $19B in 1990, when consumer film was king. Other examples abound.

The fact is that most people prefer the known above the unknown. It is as though their feet are stuck in concrete. The certainty of what they know creates a false sense of stability that makes it harder for them to change.

Daniel Kahneman explores this phenomenon in his book "Thinking Fast and Slow." When we have to learn something new (like driving a car) it takes a lot of focus to actually execute the new behavior, the author explains. Do you remember having to think consciously about steering, clutch, blinkers, gears, wipers and other traffic around you? Kahneman asserts that this required focus slows everything down. But as you gain more experience, you move towards a more reflexive behavior, based on muscle memory — something he refers to as “fast thinking.” Once you get to this point, you can drive, talk to your passenger, drink coffee and search for a good radio station at the same time.

Bringing this back to the office environment, because new things require more thought to execute, people are naturally resistant to change. 

So, what’s the secret to driving new technology adoption?

A good strategy to encourage people to change is to make the status quo more cumbersome than the new. I heard a great example recently from a customer, comparing two companies who had adopted Skype for Business. One company reported a two percent adoption rate in the first year, while the other touted 426% growth in adoption year one. The difference? The second company had removed employee desk phones completely.

Using Daniel Kahneman’s terms, an effective strategy for driving change is to burden the old process just enough so that user can no longer use their reflex behavior anymore. In other words, you increase friction to the old process. It goes without saying that you can only accomplish this if the new solution works well for the intended purpose.

Change starts with the innovators

I recommend starting with a pilot program, so that you can try out the new technology and work out the bugs before you attempt mass adoption. The innovators in your company are at ease outside of their comfort zone and are willing to absorb the little technical issues for the thrill of taking part in the experiment and being an early adopter. These are the folks who will gladly help you fine-tune the solution.

As an added benefit, the beachhead pilot project can create a buzz and initial success that will entice others to ask for the change (if you make something exclusive, it enhances its desirability). So communication of the results of your pilot is critical for the second phase of the project.

As a company, you must always continue to push the envelope to stay ahead of the game and execute the strategic intent. However, in the process, don’t forget to gather and pay attention to feedback from your internal customers. Continually tweak the process, train and support users during the adoption.

Driving change isn’t easy, but it’s very possible—as long as you are deliberate in your actions. Don't leave success up to chance, but rather think through the different implementation steps and keep in mind the psychology of those affected. The results are worth it!

Topics: Digital Workplace