Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Why do innovators hate innovation?


We hate it.

For all of our talk of doing new things in new ways, and my country's recent adoption of "change" as policy, we hate change. I certainly include myself in this category, and there are others. Michael (Monty) Widenius got an early morning phone call on Monday:

Tonight at 4:30 AM, USA Pacific time, my phone started to ring; it was a call from a Sun employee saying that Oracle has bought Sun and he wanted to join Monty Program Ab.

Why did the Sun employee decide that he wanted to change jobs? Because he wanted to head toward something familiar, Monty Program Ab, rather than something unknown, Oracle.

With little effort we can think of countless other examples of technologists who like things just the way they are. There are people who hate the FriendFeed beta and prefer the shiny old toy to the shiny new one. There are people who hate Twitter because of the people who recently joined the service; in their point of view, if you make your living in front of a TV camera, you should be banned from Twitter.

You certainly find resistance to change outside of technology communities - I didn't even bother to mention the howls that occur every time Facebook changes its user interface - but in some respect one would think that the technology community would be more receptive to change.

Of course, one can argue that the status quo is good and a change to it is bad. Jeff Jarvis does not like change for change's sake:

Change for the sake of change is meaningless and even destructive. The communists made change for change's sake a political [philosophy] and see where that got them. Change on its own is an empty word....

But there are times - and good people can argue about this - where people will claim that change is bad just because they don't want to undergo change. ChangingMinds.org looks at the phenomenon:

Resistance to change is the action taken by individuals and groups when they perceive that a change that is occurring as a threat to them.

Key words here are 'perceive' and 'threat'. The threat need not be real or large for resistance to occur.

Of course we can make change less threatening. Larry Ellison can stand up and say that he respects MySQL and wants to preserve the community. @ev can remind people that you don't have to follow @oprah, and that you can continue to follow [insert tech name here] just like you always have.

Change management, preparation for change, and related activities are important. And I suspect that I'll have a little more to say about this some time today.

Although the timing may...um...change.
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