I’ve been exploring the idea of change lately, including in a conference presentation last month. This is prompted by the sad realization that the support field is quite conservative and afraid to experiment — to our detriment.
And I happened to read a book very much related to my concerns, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. The book can be messy as it meanders between (highly entertaining) stories but I found a few ideas that meshed well with mine. Here are 5 tips to be an effective change agent:
- Actively seek new ideas. This can be done by reading books and blogs, attending conferencing, or speaking with colleagues. Many ideas come not from our field, but fields adjacent to it so I am always curious about what hotels, hospitals, or schools are doing with their “clients”. Originals stresses that highly-inventive people simply generate more ideas: not all of them will be good ones, but more ideas generate more good ideas.
- Communicate new ideas powerfully. Unconventional ideas make people uncomfortable. They just don’t understand them. Multiple exposures help, as does relating the new idea to something your audience will be familiar with. Investing in “Customer Success” may seem mysteriously expensive, but finding scalable methods for “Technical Account Management” seems utterly reasonable.
- Seek out detractors. I’ve been a fan of this approach for a long time: if you seek out friendly people who share your ideas, you will have a love fest and nothing more. If you seek out people whom you know disagree, but are open-minded, they will help you improve your ideas and even sell them to others.
- Highlight the reasons not to support your idea. This is advanced but very effective. By offering counter-arguments, you disarm your audience and you can also preempt objections: if the top three objections are listed on your slide, it will be hard for others to add to the list and the list will look finite and small.
- Invite outsiders to pitch ideas. People outside your organization may have great ideas about it and will naturally bring with them a different perspective. Accountants can suggest anti-churn approaches. Implementation consultants may have interesting views about online communities. Try it. (And don’t forget brand-new hires, before they lose their outsider status.)
What are you doing to foster innovation for yourself and for your team?