While you’re forging new paths, they’re enforcing rules, shunning risks and insisting everything’s carved in stone. In short, you’re battling conformists.
Here’s how to persuade them:
Cite precedent. Rather than challenge them outright, show that your proposal flows from pre-existing rules or patterns. Use phrases like “We already do this to some degree” or “This is a natural outgrowth of what we do now.”
Example: You want to process customer orders over the Internet, but you’re meeting resistance. So you say, “This would mirror our current process, except we would collect the data more efficiently.”
Define worst case. Because conformists may worry about the consequences of nonconformity, identify the worst that can happen if you stage an experiment and your idea doesn’t pay off as you project. Emphasize that you expect a best-case scenario, but also quantify what’s at stake so that they can weigh the potential damage of veering from their safe course.
Ally yourself with influential managers who have taken successful risks. Enlist the support of key executives who once bent a rule or withstood the pressure to stay the course in the face of change. They may sway their fellow higher-ups on your behalf because they’re still accepted among their peers as members of the conformity club.