Why Companies Resist Change, with Lisa Bodell

Noted futurist and innovation expert Lisa Bodell knows all about the consequences of static and uninspired business practices. Two years ago she authored an acclaimed book, Kill the Company: End the Status Quo, Start an Innovation Revolution, all about breaking down useless norms and adopting new behaviors to simplify the work experience. In the below clip from her Big Think Interview, Bodell discusses the two major reasons why companies resist much-needed change.


The first of these reasons is a flawed leadership mindset:

"The reason why I think mindset is what holds us back is we don't realize how much we resist change on a regular basis. In fact one of the things I talk about a lot with people is that I don't think that we're grooming leaders right now; I think that we are grooming professional skeptics."

What does Bodell mean by "professional skeptics?" She refers to the ways people are conditioned not to immediately react to proposals with positive feedback ("Your idea would accomplish x.") but rather with doubts ("Your idea won't work because of x"). This sort of conditioning makes leaders risk-averse, it reinforces a fear of the unknown, and it handicaps innovation. Breaking this mindset, says Bodell, would open up a whole new realm of possibilities.

Bodell's second reason why companies resist change is assumptions, more specifically a pesky, assumption-making culture:

"We have a lot of assumptions around how things should work, have always worked, need to work, we've already tried things that way. And I think one of the problems is our assumptions hold us back from actually attacking problems."

We've all heard these mind-numbing words before: "but that's how we've always done it." But one-size-fits-all protocols don't often make for strong results:

"If you can actually take your assumptions and change then you can start to see again more possibilities for change."

Bodell's interview wraps up with a discussion of incentives and motivation. It's one thing to say to a company, "you should change this." It's a whole other to work with them to create that change. She also quickly touches on the importance of leaders to set a tone in actively promoting change, as well as the ways in which society needs to stop perceiving it. Change should be simple and concise, says Bodell. It should make things easier, not harder. And it should be enacted in on-demand situations rather than drawn out like molasses. 

For more on innovation, change and business, check out Lisa Bodell's Big Think Interview.

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