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Why We’re Slow To Embrace New Innovation
The psychology of innovation adoption
Recently, I have been contemplating the role of historical innovation in shaping the world as we know it today. Innovations such as the telephone, the internet, EVs, solar energy, and more recently in the context of food innovation such as the rise of plant-based meat, and cultivated meat (cell-based meat).
As we all know, the world is always changing and new ideas and technology are constantly being developed. But, many of us are slow to adopt new innovations despite the potential benefits they may have.
Why is that? Why do we resent change and cling to the familiar?
Today, we’re going to look at the psychological hurdles that may make it challenging for us to adopt new ideas or innovations and towards the end of the article we’ll look at some potential solutions to overcome these hurdles.
1. The status quo struggle
It’s natural for us to want to stick to what we know and what is familiar to us. Our brains are wired to seek predictability and stability which is one of the main reasons we can be slow to adopt new stuff. From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense. Because our ancestors made quick decisions based on familiar patterns and situations in order to survive.
When presented with something unfamiliar, our brains often react with feelings of uncertainty and discomfort. Even though these new innovations may be beneficial to us, it can be hard for us to fully embrace them due to our natural tendency to stick with what we know.
Imagine you’ve been using the same shampoo for years, you’re comfortable with it and you know what to expect. Then someone comes along and tells you about a new shampoo that’s supposed to be better for your hair. Even though it sounds great, it’s hard to change something you’re used to. It’s like stepping out of your comfort zone and that can be uncomfortable.
2. The fear of the unknown
Sometimes, it can be hard to get on board with new innovations because of the unknown factors that come with them. It’s normal to feel a bit uncertain and anxious when faced with something new and unfamiliar.
This can make it more difficult for us to adopt change even when we know there could be a lot of upside to adopting these changes. It’s just the way the brain works. It’s always trying to make sense of the world around us and new things can be a lot to process.
Plus, when we’re unsure about something, our minds tend to focus on the negative possibilities. This is called the negativity bias and it’s a survival technique that helped our ancestors recognize potential dangers quickly.
For example, imagine that your business is debating whether to use a new piece of software that will supposedly streamline some procedures and boost productivity. Making the switch might appear straightforward at first. But as you dig further into the program, you start to realize that there is a learning curve and that you will need to put in some time and work to get your staff up to speed.
As a result, you could be reluctant to make the change. But if you think about it, this new software might ultimately save your business both time and money. You should take the time to become familiar with it because once you do, you’ll see its advantages.
3. The influence of social norms
As social creatures, we care a lot about what others think.
An example of this scenario is when your friends embrace a new diet and you feel hesitant, saying “I enjoy pizza too much to give it up.”
Peer pressure, normative behaviour, and social proof are forces that can hinder us. Peer pressure can cause us to hesitate in trying new things to avoid standing out. Normative behaviour is following the crowd, like a school of fish. Social proof, when others do not participate, can be perceived as a sign that something is not safe, like a lifeguard at a pool.
Note that social influence can have a significant effect on our behaviour in various ways, both positive and negative. But, recognizing the impact social influence has on our decision to embrace new ideas allows us to make informed choices and have control over our behaviour.
It’s important to understand that although these psychological barriers to innovation adoption exist, they don’t have to keep us from embracing change.
By being conscious of these challenges, we can leave our comfort zones and open ourselves to embracing new innovations. Consider this: In the modern world, being receptive to new concepts and innovations is like possessing a secret weapon. Being able to navigate the uncharted and take advantage of the development and progression brought on by new innovations is like being a superhero.