The Five Stages Of Accepting Innovation

Just like when we were 8 and our goldfish died, most of us will, at some point, go through the 5 Stages of Grief. It’s a tough process, but once we manage our way through it, we end up being at peace with the situation. As it turns out, my experience has shown me that for some people, accepting new innovation generally follows a similar process. While there is certainly nothing funny about grief, I thought it might be fun to view the eventual acceptance of IATA’s new NDC (New Distribution Capability), otherwise known as Resolution 787, through the 5 Stages of Accepting Innovation.

As we know, the first stage is Denial. Pinkie the goldfish isn’t dead. He’s just resting. Upside down. When IATA first announced its NDC initiative, it seemed that several folks in the industry, including some of the more vocal opponents of change, reacted by simply denying NDC’s existence. Even though IATA was having a number of working groups in Geneva and Montreal with folks from airlines, tech companies, TMCs, and GDS, some still suggested that whole initiative was just a bunch of vaporware. Not surprising, as many initial reactions to innovation are to simply deny its existence and hope that it goes away.

But, like most good things, innovation doesn’t just go away. So what happens next? Enter Stage 2: Anger. I’m so mad at Pinkie! How could he do this me! In the 5 Stages of Accepting Innovation, this is probably the most interesting and unpredictable stage because it brings out what I call creative criticism of the innovation. Folks accuse it of just about every bad thing under the sun, even if the facts clearly point to the opposite. One thing I have learned is that in Stage 2 of Accepting Innovation, facts mean little or nothing. Remember, we’re MAD! So it is in this stage when a lot of people—particularly those individuals, companies, and coalitions very much invested in the old way of doing things—say incredulous things like IATA’s NDC is anti-competitive and represents the end of the world as we know it! Behold the end of comparison shopping! Stay away from that NDC thing, as it will require you to give out all precious personal information and take away your right to shop anonymously! (Actually, I am a bit surprised we didn’t hear NDC called unpatriotic. That‘s always a favorite during an outpouring of anger.) Of course, anyone who has read Resolution 787 in its entirety or been involved in any of the IATA NDC working groups knows that none of the above accusations about NDC are true. But hey, folks are mad, and they get to say stuff that isn’t true. It’s the rite of passage through Stage 2. Unfortunately, some tend to wallow in this stage a bit too long.

Moving on to Stage 3: Bargaining. Pinkie, if you wake up, I’ll clean your fishbowl everyday! In this stage, people react to the feelings of helplessness and vulnerability with a need to regain control. They begin to have a sense that this innovation stuff might just not go away, as much as they may want it to, so they begin striking bargains with things like, “If we just get the Department of Transportation to refuse this initiative, all will be okay.” Or, “If we tell people this technology is bad and scary and the end of transparency, we can stop the innovation and keep everything they way it is.” Remember, this stage is all about people bargaining with themselves here so don’t expect much rationality.

In my view, a good chunk of our industry is somewhere between stages 2 and 3 at the moment.

On to Stage 4: Depression. It’s inevitable. Pinkie really is gone and I am sad. We’ll start to hear things like, “My world is changing. This NDC thing is going to happen, and I am going to have to deal with it.” Change is difficult for just about everyone, especially when it comes to innovation or dead goldfish. Depression can be a direct result of fighting off inevitable change. They may have fought so hard, but the change is still happening. And it’s never easy for people to get their arms around something new and how it will impact them. But the good news is that the innovation depression doesn’t last that long in most healthy people, unless they are attempting to overcome or block the inevitable, in which case things get all weird and can turn ugly, but I can’t imagine that is going to happen with NDC. After all, it’s just an XML standard and workflow methodology. However, if you are one of those folks in Stage 4, my recommendation is to acknowledge the depression –don’t hide from it! But then get out of bed, comb your hair, and start planning how to incorporate this innovation as a competitive advantage.

We’ve finally arrived at Stage 5: Acceptance. Pinkie may be gone, but I’m still here and it’s OK! NDC will be the new normal for airline distribution. It will be like e-ticketing was 15 or so years ago. Back then many of us never thought we could give up that paper ticket. But we did and it’s worked out great! Now the only red stains on our shirts are from spilling ketchup on ourselves as we run to catch the flight while eating a hot dog. NDC will be no different. Heck, it might even be better—more offers, better offers, relevant offers, personalized offers, competitive offers. That doesn’t sound so bad! Stage 5 is all about engagement with the innovation. Jump in to NDC! Rally around it. Embrace it and make it yours! Put your special mark on it. Be one with it. NDC and YOU!

There, you made it through, and it wasn’t even that bad…

As always, your comments are welcome.

This post is republished with permission from the Farelogix 'Ask The Question' blog.