A space for change makers.

Social-Innovation-Interview-1-What You Can Do About Resistance In Open Innovation Workshops


This is where we answer questions from our community (that's you!). This week's interview is about what to do when resistance comes up during the open innovation process; from team members or from the participants in your workshop. I chat with the founder of WE THINQ, Christian Kreutz, about his experiences with resistance and the 'angry citizen'.

Kayla: Hi, I'm Kayla.

Christian: Hi, I'm Christian.

Kayla: We are going to be starting a video series today where we answer questions from our community. If you want ask a question, you can go to the page and ask a question and we will do our best to answer it.

Today's question is what resistance could come up during the open innovation process? What happens if my team members don't support me in the process? How do you deal with participants who are cynical, or are using the process as a way to vent their anger?

Christian: That's a great question. Resistance is a topic we're often asked by many of our customers because they fear or have the fear that there will be a lot of resistance and that people will be very destructive or criticize a lot and that might hurt the overall process.

Maybe to start the conversation, from our experience, and there's been a lot of different open innovation processes is that there's actually mostly a very constructive way people talk to each other. That's interesting for me. It is anything that these destructive (or not sort of difficult or resistance by people), then it's normally corrected by the participants themselves.

There is hardly any involvement needed by moderators. Of course, what is your experience?

Kayla: I'm actually thinking of a TV show, Parks and Recreation. They're a city government and they hold a town hall meeting. Basically, the meeting goes on for three hours and it's just citizens coming and complaining and venting their frustrations and not having a productive conversation. That's obviously a stereotype exaggerated for comedy means.

I'm wondering if in your experience if the type of organization, for example, if it's like a private company or a nonprofit or a government organization if that affects how participants might interact with the process.

Christian: It's a great example, especially in citizen participation. We experience that many of our people approaching a staff in...citizens are asked to innovate to get feedback, especially if they are angry about parties of politics and they might be very destructive.

Here, also, in contrary, the experience is that once everybody has feedback, that's quite constructive. We have interesting examples that I have where there were heated debates. For instance, environment is a topic. For instance, wind energy where you think environmentalists are for it, but conversation people are against it because they're so loud.

Doing the conversation, it got quite heated at one point. Then, the participants themselves started to get constructive again. Basically, when the administration became involved and discussed with them, it became much more objective. The discussion can be in a more constructive manner. They saw this resistance, but there are various ways that you can deal with the resistance.

Kayla: That brings up the topic of having a very experienced moderator and someone who can take the resistance and turn it into a constructive conversation. If there is a resistance or venting coming up, they may have very good points and they're just not expressing in a constructive way.

Christian: Exactly. The advantage of having it online is that sometimes there is some base time in between, if somebody did something and then maybe different people come hours later or not directly. There's not this heated energy in the room. It has some positives and negatives.

In the room, maybe you can directly talk and solve the issue very quickly, and online you cannot. Maybe it's also good just because people can think about their reply or maybe can update what they said before.

Definitely moderators can wisely engage here and ask questions to neutralize it a bit and make way for other topics. Then, the discussion also can develop over a longer period of time. It doesn't have to be solved at that very point in this tense situation. It can be solved over a longer process.

That's what I often experience that the discussion with more time, can go on and different aspects can be highlighted. That can really release the resistance.

Kayla: It gives people time to breathe and think about what they're saying. If people are showing resistance, that also means that they're very passionate about the topic. Maybe they don't agree with you or maybe they don't agree with how you're doing it.

If they care enough to be cynical and to vent their anger, then they obviously care a lot about the topic. It's good to have them there. As you said, being online can help to easily moderate that and let the steam cool off in between conversations.

Christian: Definitely. One other experience we have is that the broader you ask, the more questions you might get, and that makes is sometimes very difficult. If you ask questions to citizens or in your company, "What are your ideas for everything?" You get a lot of questions, feedback, but you might also get resistance because "I don't think this and why is it that way".

What really helps is if you limited the scope of what you're talking about, make it more clear, this specific talk make it more constructive what you're looking for, something like all environments. For instance, how to save paper. Something very concrete that people actually can constructively talk around that issue and you leave out the topics where there's maybe too much emotion and potentially too much resistance.

It is also a good advantage to really, from the beginning, choose a topic where you know there is a lot of good positive energy into it. Once you have experience in that, how to run it and how to go to such an innovation process, you can reach a goal, later on to the topics which where you know they are much harder to talk about.

Kayla: For sure. This person also asks not only about participants, but what happens if my team members don't support me? Do you have any advice for that?

Christian: What is definitely nice, especially if you do a larger innovation process offline but especially online, you can reach many more people.

What is nice is if you have a lot of resistance in your team then once you make this a process of community that is larger with participants from different departments also, then you might be lucky and reach other people in other departments you would have never thought about who thinks the same, have the similar idea and you can bond with them and you can move forward with the idea and maybe be lucky and implement it.

That is one way of reaching to get great ideas too.

Kayla: Great. That's all the time we have for today. Thank you very much for the question. Again, if you want to ask a question, you can go to We'll see you next time.

Christian: Thank you. Bye-bye.