What will your boss, colleague, or employee think of your brilliant new idea? As it turns out, reactions to innovation can be easily predicted using Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion. Expecting certain reactions lets us prepare for, and overcome, objections more easily.

Newton’s Law of Motion

Apply it at Work

Move Beyond Inertia

1: An object tends to remain at rest, or at its current speed, until acted upon by an external force.

”My team is already running as fast as it can.” Or “Why should I try something new—no need to fix something that isn’t broken.” Expect that majority of people to resist change. It takes effort (aka “external force”) to get people moving or alter someone’s existing direction and pace.If you like generating new ideas, get used to rejection! When asked to collect carbon metrics for an foreign based company in 2005, I first presented the idea to our U.S. site managers on its merits. We needed to track energy use to comply with the law, we could identify consumption patterns and find ways to reduce expenses, and we could lower our harmful GHG emissions. What I received was a resounding “No—we already have too much to do,” and “I don’t have the time or staff to comply.” 

The challenge was, our company would pay a financial penalty if data was not collected.

Incentives are the best way to get people moving, and studies show that recognition and acknowledgement are equally as powerful as financial incentives.Solution: Since collecting data was a legal requirement, we created an incentive for U.S. manager. Up to 5% of their base salary became contingent upon their collection of carbon metrics. Through the incentive, the company would either receive the data it needed, or if a manager failed to deliver, his portion of salary would be used to pay the penalty fee. 100% of metrics were gathered the first year of incentive implementation.

2: Force = Mass X Acceleration.

The “Force” is the impact of an idea on a company’s success. How much will your idea propel the company forward? That depends on two things:1.        “Mass” describes the significance of an object, and in business I liken it to relevance. Ideas with small effect will create incremental progress, but those that will create millions in revenue or provide entry into a new market will receive greater notice. The more an idea relates to business goals, the bigger its potential impact to a company’s bottom line. 

2.        “Acceleration”, in business terms, is our pace of change. Natural innovators make up only 2.5% of the general populous. In high tech corporate cultures (like Google), the pace of change is accelerated, so there will be a larger percent of innovators (and less resistance to change). In low risk cultures (like BBI), the pace of change will be slower—as we generally hire employees based upon their successful ability to identify and eliminate risks. The speed of change adoption defines a company’s corporate innovation culture.

Keep ideas relevant and aligned with Director goals. People are more likely to get onboard with change if it accelerates their performance goals. Even the greatest ideas will not be implemented if they do not solve a problem or opportunity important to leaders within an organisation.Solution: BBI’s second Innovation Lab programme had a greater force or impact on daily business because it focused on an existing problem, chosen by leaders. The outcome was implemented immediately because participants applied to be involved—so the pace of change was welcomed, not intrusive.

3: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

From a young age I learned to expect that actions caused reactions. In sports, in relationships, with siblings, in nearly every aspect of our lives, the things we do cause people to react.When first contracted to work for an international company with properties across the U.S., we proposed a solar investment at a Key West concession. The energy costs were high and although it was a mere $4 million investment, it would pay back in 5 years and produce healthy returns. The deal was a new business model and a tiny investment, so it was not something that fit the current investment risk profile at the company.

Be prepared that nobody will love your idea as much as you do! Use your “pitch” to gain experience and intel about what leaders really want.Solution: We understood the capital investment was an unknown risk barrier, so we worked to develop a third-party ownership model. This decoupled operational savings from financial investment, and removed risks. The world’s largest solar powered community was created and the new business model has since been rolled out to several more of the company’s properties.