“We live in a society where technology is a very important force in business, in our daily lives. And all technology starts as a spark in someone’s brain. An idea of something that didn’t exist before, that once they have invented it —brought it into existence — could change everything. And that activity is generally one that’s not very well supported.” – Nathan Myhrvold, CEO, Intellectual Ventures.
Innovation isn’t easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it. But what do you when you’re behind the curve? When the standard tactics that might convince another CEO to update technology just aren’t working? What do you do when you’re dealing with closed minded executives? Do you leave? Do you go to a competitor? Do you just sit on your outdated technology and pray that it doesn’t fail you? Maybe. Some people might do that. Sitting by and making excuses, wondering whether it’s your problem, taking your paycheck and not necessarily worrying about the future of the organization – that’s the easy route. But it’s not sustainable. Dealing with closed minded executives when it comes to business technology innovation isn’t easy, but we think we know what can help.
Here are our best, straight up, tough love tactics for dealing with closed minded executives:
- Straight up. Bring them back to their mission. C-level executives have been working on the business for a long time. When you work on a business, it can start to become somewhat routine. They have the goals that they set with the other executives. They see budget and return and cost cutting. They’re stuck in meetings all day long. They forget what the company IS and why they started it to begin with. You need to bring them back. If one thing is true, it’s that executives appreciate an individual who has the best interests of the business in mind. Take the company mission and vision, print it out and schedule a meeting with your executive team. Communicate your concern that you think that you’re getting away from the vision. That the company is no longer delivering on the promise to their customers. Tell them that the future of the business, their legacy, their life’s work, is in danger of becoming obsolete. It might not be easy. Telling a closed minded executive comes with risks, but ultimately you’re doing everyone a favor by bringing the issues to light.
- Survey your users and bring the results to your meeting. If you’re losing employees because of an issue with your technology, odds are that most of the employees in your organization are frustrated. Take a survey that relates to technology and show them the results. If your technology is outdated, there will likely be some level of user frustration. Think they won’t care? Tell them the costs associated with high employee turnover. If you use a recruiter, have a long training curve or high cost associated with interviewing – they’ll likely perk up. Many companies pay recruiters thousands to bring them the best employees. Here’s a great article from Inc.com about the high cost of employee turnover.
- Bring them down into the business. Have you ever seen the show Undercover Boss? It’s a show where the highest-level executives go into the trenches to try to better understand issues within their organization and what their employees are dealing with. Challenge your executive team to spend a day in the trenches with your employees. Along the way make them use your line of business application, phone systems, servers and talk to them about the risks associated with not updating these things. They’ll see where the inefficiencies are, they’ll notice the holes in the strategy and they’ll be far more likely to be open to making some changes.
People sit idly by every day in your organization. You can be one of those people, or you can look for new ways to bring your executive team back to the reality of things. It’s not easy, for sure. But what other option do you have? Hope that nothing happens? Hope that you’re gaining more customers than you’re losing? Hope that your executive team has an endless investor that can make up for all the lost income training the new employees that come in? Sounds a little like a dream to me.
It’s time to get real about updating company technology. Just because you’re not the decision maker doesn’t mean you can’t help them see the way. Take action or you’ll likely end up looking for a new position.