I recently bought new eyeglasses – one of my least favorite things to do. This is a purchase that I will use daily for the next several years and that costs a significant amount of money and yet I can’t see without mine on in order to select a new pair. Thus, I need to rely on the opinion of a stranger to determine how they look on me – all while wearing a mask. It’s hard to imagine it turning out well.
So, what happens is that I end up with a pair that is eerily similar to the ones I already had. I have worn the new specs for a week without comment from anyone.
I think they are a metaphor for change. As the risk goes up (cost, longevity) our propensity for taking a risk goes down. Firms like Warby Parker have tried to minimize that risk by allowing you to try on things at home where you can get the opinion of people who know you without the time pressure of being in a store (and by reducing the cost). Or if they were cheap “cheaters” it would be easy to go out on a limb and try a new color or shape, but for 700 bucks I want to be pretty sure it’s something I like.
The next time you are initiating a change effort at work, remember the experience of buying glasses. How can you mitigate some of the risk if you want people to make big leaps in innovation? Without some adjustment of risk/reward, you’re likely to get an incremental change that others may not even notice.