In many companies, there are employees known for their ability to fix problems.
They are colloquially referred to as “firefighters”, because they are constantly putting out fires around the business.
And usually this results in them being highly respected for their ability to quickly solve challenging problems, whether it be dealing with customer issues or fostering cooperation between people on projects. Sometimes you hear about them “going the extra mile” to make sure the problem was solved, to everyone’s delight.
You would expect therefore that since these individuals are constantly dealing with problems, they would be keen to accept new innovations which make their life easier, for example by eliminating certain sources of problems entirely.
However, often these individuals are actually the ones who fight the hardest to keep the status quo, and want to prevent change through innovating.
This is because they understand that while the innovation might help the company overall, they fear that they might lose the success and respect they have built up by becoming good at solving problems in their current manner. Their identity is so closely associated with their work. If there is no need to go the extra mile anymore, they ask themselves how they can prove their value.
In their mind, the company would be the winner, at the expense of themselves.
Who benefits? Not them…
So the natural urge is to resist the change. Especially when it comes to changing the way that they personally work.
This is why change management and training is so important in an innovation project, as well as clear communication about what is changing, why it should, and what success looks like after the innovation is implemented.
Because you can always use the skills and mentality of a firefighter. You just need to ensure they are looking for the most value-adding fires to put out.
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