Why They Don’t: Reasons People Won’t Try Something New

Yesterday I asked my timeline how they would answer "Why don’t people do what my software development method says they should do?"

I am not remotely surprised that the answers I got were almost exclusively thoughtful and sensitive. The people I hang with are just like that. I want to review the answers, but i’m going to do it by re-framing them all in terms of "trying a new thing". After all, as coaches, we are kinda in that business. No doubt, this will involve some word-twisting, and it may involve some intent-breaking. I trust you to holler if I go too far.

Some of the answers seem to focus on "trying". Others are about "new". A couple are about "now". <– yes, I realize I forgot to put "now" in "trying a new thing now". My bad. A couple of people went pretty meta-, and one or two seem to have thot I was asking "for a friend", and offered advice about what "my friend" should do. 🙂

There are a lot of reasons people don’t try a new thing now.

  1. They don’t know there’s something else to try. That is, they are currently unaware that there is a different way.
  2. They don’t know how to try it. That is, it seems so far from what they do now, they can’t see a way to start doing it at all.
  3. They believe they are trying it. This is what happens when there’s a disconnect between “what I said” and “what you heard”. (it’s not all saying and hearing, so take that as metaphor.)
  4. They believe they tried it, and it didn’t work for them. Note: they might have tried it and it didn’t work, or this could be the result of the previous item.
  5. They believe it won’t work, so is not worth trying. This is especially common when the new thing does not seem intuitively correct. Like turning into a skid, say.
  6. They can’t try it *now*, because they are mid-stream doing an old thing and they feel pressure to complete.
  7. They believe they can’t afford to try because local failure will lead immediately to global failure.
  8. They believe they can’t afford to try because local failure — regardless of global impact — will be punished.
  9. They don’t want to try my idea because they don’t like me. (rarely mentioned, but be real: not liking the suggestor is a common reason to not try the suggestion.)
  10. They don’t want to try my idea because they’ve experienced many failed ideas from me. Note, this is different from 9. Here they have or believe they have a trend of real experience with you.
  11. They don’t want to try the new idea because it comes from above. This is the feeling that autonomy is being violated.
  12. They don’t want to try because the new thing seems incompatible with what their peers are doing.
  13. They did try it and it isn’t working well because it’s new. It’s hard to do things a new way, and hard to tell when you’re still climbing the learning curve vs when you’re just doing a thing that doesn’t work well.
  14. They did try it and it doesn’t work well. I know, this crushes our spirit as coaches, but it happens all the time. Our methods just aren’t that reliable.
  15. They can’t try it because it requires a technical pre-requisite. (it is very hard to do CI/CD w/o a certain degree of automated test coverage, for instance.)
  16. They hate new things. The act of change itself — any change — is experienced as unpleasant.
  17. They feel they can’t try anything because life is busy macerating them. Again, rarely mentioned, but it’s routine to encounter people who are wrestling with challenges in their lives that far outweigh anything happening in their work life.

Oooooookay. Damn. That’s a lot of answer, eh?

Yesterday’s abortive chiropractor appointment is today, and I need to take a break and go get snap-crackle-popped. Further, this is a good pausing point. But I’m not done. I asked that question not knowing for sure what I’d get back. And I started this list not knowing what the point of it was.

But the point developed as I worked on the list and thought about the answers. When I return, I want to knit together some things. 1) always-small-always-improve. 2) the gerund list. 3) my oft-stated distaste for software development methods. 4) finding yes.

Until then, have at it. Remember to take deep breaths and chuckle at yourself.

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