By now I’m sure everyone has seen this picture, probably more than once, and we certainly had an opportunity to relate. When I first saw this caricature my reaction was somewhat patronizing…”look at these guys, they wont know a good thing even if it hits them in the face”. I could also relate from my own experience – working as a change agent for numerous companies, I’ve experienced my fair share of resistance, doubt, and general pig-headedness, sometimes without any apparent reason. Or so I thought…

Recently, while seeing this caricature again, I got to think about the specific scenario it shows. The 2 people ‘schlepping’ the cart – they got a job to do, they probably been doing it for a while, with a certain know-how and well-defined expectations. The tool they’re using does the trick, its fairly reliable, they understand it’s kinks, and know how to fix it if it breaks. Its also what everyone else is using – its been proven in their field and is considered an industry standard.

The person with the wheel, he has a different perspective, he’s in a totally different state of mind – he sees the gross inefficiencies of the old tool, especially if he got to experience the advantages of the new one. The wheel person fully comprehends the paradigm shift that his innovation will bring, he believes the change will be worthwhile. However the cart people don’t really understand the benefits, they never seen it in action, they don’t know if the wheel is reliable – maybe it breaks often, so it will slow them down and make them miss their deadlines, or worse, perhaps deploying and operating this new invention will break their precious cargo! They sure know their business, and yes perhaps there are numerous *different* ways to do things, but who’s to say they are *better*? Are they supposed to stop what they’re doing every time some ‘genius’ shows up with a gadget?

My first reaction to this picture was to sympathize with the wheel person, and sneer at the cart people, but that’s only because the wheel is an old and proven invention, I get the advantages of the wheel, I’m in the same headspace as the wheel guy. However, in reality we’re all ‘cart people’, we know our jobs and understand how to do it, there could many different ways of doing it, but to understand them we have to try them out, and can we really stop everything and try out every possible option?

This is the trick to innovation – bridging the headspace. The ability to shift from one paradigm and into another, and see your existing world in a different way, understand how the benefits can outweigh the risks. Its not easy, and mistakes are inevitable, but if you have the vision, the plan, and the trust, it can be done…It has to be done, there is no other way to move forward.

Author : Arik Kalininsky