Why are so many people against CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT?

SIX TIMES last week I was challenged…. “Why do you keep changing?”   In each case it was said with a sense of humor laced with anxiety.   The confrontations occurred following advanced “peek” discussions of “beta versions” of upgrades to our Innovation Engineering software tools and Brain Brew Whiskey(e)y bourbons.   The tools offer a 10X increase in innovation speed - the whiskey’s offer 2 to 1 consumer preference.   Despite these benefits - passive aggressive resistance remains to both. 

In today’s fast based world grow or die is a simple slogan and truth.   In theory everyone agrees.  However in practice as one company leader told me recently, “I’m in favor of change for everyone other than me!”  She smiled when she said it - acknowledging the ridiculousness of her feelings. 

Thinking on it over the weekend I’ve identified three theories as to the root cause of resistance

  1. LACK OF ALIGNMENT on The Bigger Picture Mission:  The biggest source of resistance may well be a lack of alignment on the greater purpose for the change.  Most adults have a very narrow field of view.  They are focused on their work, team or department.  To make change happen we need to help folks understand the bigger picture - the mission that is greater then their personal work.  In our world - they need to understand the Blue Card Narrative… the what and why this improvement is important. 
  2. BAD Implementation SYSTEMS & TOOLS: When those being presented with an improvement don’t have the systems or tools to implement successfully they resist. 

 It’s often said that the source of the 95% failure rate with innovations is faulty execution.  Our research is showing that 94% of the time the root cause of faulty execution is faulty work systems and tools.    When sales forecasting systems are guesses not not science - when feedback is internal opinions because it takes too long to get customer data - when innovation teams are isolated from the wisdom of the corporate system - YOU WILL HAVE FLAWED IMPLEMENTATION.   Conversely - when you have fast systems - 5 year diffusion of innovation monte-carol forecasts, rapid research in minutes/ days, a culture of collaboration - YOU WILL HAVE SUCCESS.

  1. The BENEFIT / RISK ROI Is Negative:   When an improvement is suggested a mental calculation is done on the benefit from an improvement divided by the risk of failure.  Importantly - the weighting is not equal.  Research finds that “prevention of a negative” (risk) is 5 times more motivating than the promise of a positive.  What this means is that supposedly “simple” changes with lost cost and impact have very little chance of gaining support.  To make change happen it needs to be “meaningful enough / big enough / valuable enough” to overcome the natural resistance that comes with any change. 

This morning and week as I continue my presentations on our innovation tool & whisk(e)y improvements I am going to focus on doing three things - better than I did last week: 1) Start with PURPOSE to gain alignment at the start, 2) Identify how we can use the SYSTEMS/TOOLS to improve implementation of the SYSTEMS/TOOLS and 3) Quantify the BENEFIT / RISK ROI - in particular detail how we are doing greater beta testing than normal and consumer testing of the whiskies. 

To me life is meant to be lived fully.  And living fully means never ending continuous improvement in my self, my personal world and professional world.  I do this because frankly it’s more FUN.   And because the other alternative to growth is death and I’m not a fan of death.

I hope you have a wonderful week



Innovation Culture Expert - Author - Whisk(e)y Maker