The role of inertia as a barrier to adoption of new technologies in Medicine and Law has been widely documented. In a 2013 study titled "Public Sector Transformation Processes and Internet Public Procurement", the authors cite organizational inertia and resistance to change as one of the five most important barriers to eProcurement adoption. In a paper titled “Organizational Inertia as Barrier to Firms’ IT Adoption”, author Steffi Haag reports on an in-depth study of organization inertia using 100+ companies and digs deeper into types of inertia, namely cognitive, behavioral, socio-cognitive, economic and political.

On the inventor (read product development) side too, the role of inertia is well recognized. Dean Kamen, best known as the inventor of the Segway scooter, has stated that in his many years of working in technologies, he has found that the time it takes to develop new products is often eclipsed by the time it takes to bring something to market. "Don't gauge the rate at which you will be an instant success by how quickly you can develop the technology," he told would-be entrepreneurs. "I would gauge how long it takes the collective culture–any culture–to give up something, even if they are frustrated or unhappy with it, and accept something different. The rate of emotional, intellectual, cultural, and regulatory inertia of the world is very high. It used to be much lower in this country, but even that is changing."

Wait, what? “… to give up something, even if they are frustrated or unhappy with it, and accept something different.” This reminded me of a book I read several years ago: Switch, the Heath brothers’ 2010 book on implementing change in the enterprise. Their prescription:

  • Don't think big picture, think specific behaviors
  • Paint a picture of the destination
  • Motivate your people by making them feel something
  • Shrink the change – break down the change into bit size portions

If Procurement leaders are to lead their teams through the digital revolution and capitalize on the trends of cloud, mobile, social and big data, they must interrupt the inertia bias deliberately.

We want to hear your change management stories. Feel free to share in the comments below. 

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