Why we’re scared of new tech – and how we can be won over
Technology resistance is nothing new. In the 18th century, the Luddites smashed up the mechanised looms that threatened to – indeed, did – take away their skilled jobs as artisan weavers. Printing presses, tractors, telephones, and even margarine and coffee have all been the target of smear campaigns, before becoming entrenched in our lives in due course.
At the heart of our suspicion, of course, is a very human fear – the worry that our livelihoods will disappear and that new innovations will simply serve to line the pockets of the powerful few, at the expense of the hard-working many.
But history actually shows otherwise: for every new technology that arrives, more jobs are created than destroyed. The PC has displaced many traditional roles, but is estimated to have created 15.8 million jobs net in the US since 1980*. Platforms such as Airbnb and Amazon Marketplace have allowed many small-scale entrepreneurs to launch businesses they would previously have been unable to create.
Technology is a net job creator. But that’s small comfort in the here and now when your personal role may be under threat.
The barriers to take-up
Of course, mistrust is just one of the hurdles businesses face when introducing a new technology. Budget constraints, the complexity of integrating legacy systems, and gaps in skills and training are all barriers to be overcome – along with the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mindset.
But one of the biggest hurdles is buy-in. Without winning people’s support, and more widely developing an organisational culture that embraces technology, your investment will go to waste.
So, what does it take to win people over to your new tech?
Necessity is the mother of invention
Sometimes, events will force people’s hands. For example, Zoom had been around for nine years before the pandemic drove its rapid adoption at scale. Almost overnight, it became the default method of communicating with people and a core part of our working and social lives.
But pandemics don’t happen every day, fortunately. So, what else can businesses do? Here are 6 steps.
1. Focus on the problems it solves
However wonderful and visionary a technology solution may be for the business, people will want to know how it will help them in their individual roles. The suspicion will be that only the business’s needs have been taken into account, not theirs, so identify the day-to-day challenges they face and focus on how the new tech can solve them and make their lives easier.
2. Keep people in the loop
Most people don’t like having change sprung upon them, particularly without consultation – we like to be kept up to date and have our opinions heard. Let people know well in advance if a new technology is being introduced, outline the main features and benefits, and explain the reasons for change. This can do a lot to defuse any scepticism.
3. Lead with empathy
Many of us have been scarred by painful or clunky tech implementations, and it’s these memories that can colour our openness to going through the same thing again. Acknowledge that bad deployments happen, explain why this one will be different, and keep communicating and supporting through deployment and beyond.
4. Make training meaningful
Customise training to different people’s needs – some people will simply need light touch, others more intensive walk throughs. Get people working quickly on live projects rather than dummy runs – set a live useful project or practical request to test the tech on, so they work it into their day to day as soon as possible and start appreciating the benefits. Don’t forget, good tech should be intuitive - if your tool requires vast amounts of training time, is it really the right one?
5. Find cheerleaders
Technology scepticism can be contagious, but so can social endorsement. Get a few people on your team to try out the tech and feed back – not just the obvious technology fans, but other influential people on your team, whose word could help sway the overall majority.
6. Keep the conversation going
Gone are the days when a new technology was deployed and we all just had to get on with it – or at least, they should be. Today, collaboration and continuous improvement is the name of the game, so encourage your team’s feedback and act on it. Many software providers have online communities where you can share questions, projects and best practices, so their valuable feedback could feed into shaping something big.
So many successful business initiatives come down to good old fashioned communication skills – and winning trust for your new tech is no different. Good luck! If you'd like help with your technology marketing, speak to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll be glad to see how and where we can lend a hand.