Fear of Adoption
In this blog we are going to address the fear of adopting new technology and how to overcome this hurdle to innovation and begin the path towards digital transformation.
Fear can be a powerful motivator when making decisions: When positive, fear serves as an indicator of a potentially bad decision – it raises the alarm that there is a significant underlying risk in the presented path forward.
However, when negative, fear can irrationally prevent us from making significant changes or taking actions that may provide a long-term benefit.
The question, then, is how do we know when our fears are justified, or when they are driven by other factors?
The key to this question is to analyze and understand where the fear is coming from. Fear of adoption typically stems from four main concerns:
- Fear of the decision
- Fear of the unknown
- Fear of inexperience
- Fear it won’t work
As you read through this blog, we will touch on each one of these fears to better understand what they are telling us.
Fear of the Decision
When faced with impactful decisions, the fear of the repercussions from making the wrong decision can often drive us to inaction or to undervalue the benefits of innovation.
These types of decisions can be especially difficult when we are outside of our comfort zones. It can be difficult to know how to compare and select from a list of providers and solutions.
As you navigate the decision-making process, it’s important to understand the characteristics of your organization, the risks involved with inaction, and the risks involved with different potential solutions. The key in this step is to have a sound risk / opportunity mitigation strategy.
Specifically, it is important to clearly define the objectives or benefits of the project and to identify the risk of not meeting those objectives. This allows an organization or an individual to compare the perceived technological risks to the initial opportunities or benefits that prompted the project to be considered. Then work with providers to systematically address and mitigate the risks introduced by the technology so that you can realize the opportunity.
In doing so, we will be able to breakdown the larger decision into an analytical, fact-driven process with a focus on the opportunity not the risk. Benefits based decision making can be a lot more positive than a risk-based decision process and provides powerful motivation during the adoption process.
Fear of the Unknown
Fear of the unknown and stepping outside of our comfort zones are powerful motivators to do nothing.
Similar to fearing the decision, when something is unknown to us, we tend to focus on the risks associated with the change as opposed to the risks associated with our inaction.
To address this, we need to better understand the innovation or technology being considered.
Aside from answering the technical questions such as does it work, is it established, will it work for me, it is also important to understand the ten-thousand-foot view.
Digital transformation is a complicated process which requires buy-in from executives,
supervisors and operators alike as well as requiring extensive retraining for IT and operators. Thus, it is important to understand not just the technological piece, but the operational and human pieces as well.
Additionally, it is also helpful to speak to others who have gone through this process to understand what worked and what didn’t work for them. There is a reason we can be scared to be first adopters, but fortunately most large automation technologies already have 1st, and 2nd, and 3rd adopters.
Fear of Inexperience
Similar to the fear of the unknown, embracing a new technology we have little experience with can be intimidating, even when we understand at a high-level how the solution is meant to work.
Luckily, good technology providers know this and should provide comprehensive training, transition, communication, and partnering options to ensure that the process is successful for both the vendor and the client. Choose a partner who will continue to work with you, rather than a transactional sale with limited after sales support.
Fear It Won’t Work
Fears that a new technology won’t work can typically be categorized into one of three groups: the technology won’t work for my use case, the technology is not established, or the transition/adoption of the technology won’t work.
The first is straightforward: It is important to quantitatively evaluate the technology based on the benefits it can provide your organization and use case.
The best strategy requires understanding of the implementation goals as they pertain to business value and assessing why the effort to change is warranted. Innovation should be evaluated based on quantitative and tangible benefits but also the softer and harder to qualify benefits. For more ideas around this, check out our recent blog on automation ROI.
The second should also be straightforward but can be a bit more difficult when we are not as knowledgeable in the field: It is useful to consider where the technology is within the adoption cycle; or how well established it is.
For example, automation of processing lines, conveyors, and overhead cranes is mature in the adoption cycle, as it is common throughout many industries. While it might be relatively new in your specific application, seeking out where each piece is in the maturity cycle both inside and outside your application / industry. This, along with testimonials and live demos, can help address concerns about the robustness and performance of a potential solution.
The third is typically where we face our biggest challenges: Diffusion of new innovation requires significant communication for all stakeholders who will be impacted.
Leaders need to step into the shoes of their stakeholders and understand how a new technology implementation will impact their day-to-day work in positive and, perhaps initially, in negative ways during adoption. Leaders should also identify their allies and naysayers. Internal champions are key to advocating for new technology, and are often the people most involved with the day-to-day work of individual contributors. Communication of the key benefits and rationale for a new technology, specifically with the naysayers, will help to smooth the transition.
Technology for the sake of technology does not provide buy-in.
There are many ways to optimize communications throughout the implementation process including regular email newsletters, live demonstrations over web conferencing software, and internal messaging platforms. The more comfortable stakeholders become with the technology, the better the end results will be.
The best defense is a good offense—doing nothing is not going to make you competitive.
If we define quantitative objectives and measure solutions based on the benefits they provide, we will be better equipped to tackle change and the related decisions and challenges. Fear of innovation is founded in fear of the unknown.
Technologies, like automation, have been around for decades now. They are tried and tested, so knowledge is the important second step in overcoming fear of adoption.
Finally, ensuring adoption of a new technology requires lots of communication. Communication should start from the top and be hinged on the benefits of the technology to drive the motivation to change.
Rationalize -> Acquire Knowledge -> Communicate!
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