“But, seriously, why are they so stubborn?” An old answer to a recurring question

By Chinweike I. Eseonu, Oregon State University – Variants of this question are often posed during discussions on strategies for improving use of  Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems, leaner process interventions, and other excellent improvements. As I drove away from the latest meeting in which this question came up, it occurred to me that this could be asked of individuals in any industry: why are engineers, teachers, sales clerks, home makers, etc., so stubborn? Don’t they understand the monumentally revolutionary impact of this new technology/method/idea on their performance? Why can’t folks accept the constancy of change and all that it entails?

If it is true that one must never just blame the operator for defects, the Process improvement and Leadership mindset suggests we seek to make intuitive improvements that drive organic adoption of better behavior. So my question becomes: How do I make my idea/technology/improvement the next #Alexfromtarget?   How do ideas spread?  How have people been convinced that six month phone upgrade cycles makes financial sense?

I recall a basic process for the diffusion of innovations outlined by Everett Rogers. Rogers would argue that people go through a decision making process about any innovation. Here is an image of Rogers’ five stage decision making process. I have included some questions I plan to ask myself before asking the “stubbornness” question on my next process improvement project. What do you think? Have you had similar, or different experiences with change management? What are some strategies that have worked well (or not so well)? I’ll look out for your ideas and feedback in the comments section.

Keep filling the toolbox!

Rogers Decision process

Stages of the Innovation-Decision Process (Adapted from Rogers, 1962)