How do I get my colleagues in my innovation plans?

Author: John Boynton

"We have always done it that way" is a common slogan when it comes to change. Especially in panel construction, a sector that revolves around craftsmanship. Why replace existing procedures and routines if things are currently going well?

We put that question to psychologist Inge Mink. She specialises in group behavior and coaches organisations in the SME sector. “It’s a myth that people are resistant to change,” says Mink. “Otherwise, we would no longer exist.”

Status Threat

According to Mink, behaviour always depends on the context. "If people have to change their behaviour, they make a calculation in their head: what's in it for me? They are quite willing to do so, as long as they have the idea that the change will bring them something positive."

It is possible that employee’s feel threatened in their status, whether they are right or not. Automation can cause fear amongst the installers who have been employed for a longer period of time, causing them to believe that younger people will take their place. In addition, digitisation means that the work for senior engineers can become less challenging and they feel they will become less important to the company.

Avoid internal struggle

"The status that we have in a group is enormously important. It forms the basis of our self-confidence," says Mink. "It confirms that we are indispensable and it gives us the right to exist." According to her, we go far to defend this status, causing us to be bothered and fight internally with other group members.

In practice, Mink sees that managers have good intentions for change, but rarely involve their employees in the thought process. "If you take away the self-thinking capacity of employees and start imposing on them from above, you create a situation where they are resistant to change. No matter how good the solution is."

Engage in dialogue

Although there is no holy grail when it comes to resistance to change, it can be reduced by engaging in dialogue. However, don’t expect every employee to instantly be enthusiastic about the new plans.

"I notice that only a small percentage of employees voluntarily sign up for these dialogues," says Mink. "There is usually a high percentage of informal leaders in between influencing the behaviour and thinking of their colleagues. They can convey their enthusiasm in the workplace and become a kind of ambassadors. This thinking process must become very normal within your organisation. "


Mink gives three examples to experiment with in the workplace:

1. Openness: Consider making MT consultations accessible to all employees.

2. Choice: Hold internal - informal or non-informal – referendums where employees can vote on new policies (and new leaders).

3. Voluntary: Let the employees choose themselves if to participate in consultations, training and activities.


Want to know more about how you get your colleagues in your innovation plans - in particular digitisation and automation? Then download the e-book: 7 excuses for not digitising and automating.

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