3 Reasons We Don’t Fully Embrace New Things Right Away

Image courtesy of The Searcher

At opposite ends of the shopping spectrum, you have the early adopters who rush to embrace the newest and shiniest products the moment they hit the market, and then you have those who choose to clutch on to the familiar, refusing to change until they have no choice. Even those of us in the middle have likely found ourselves hesitating at some point, reluctant to try something new. Is there some innate distrust in most humans that makes it difficult to fully embrace the latest innovations?

Fear, nostalgia, gut instincts, feelings of loss, perceived impact, the list goes on and on, according to a new book from Harvard professor Calestous Juma, as highlighted by the Washington Post.

While there are many factors that play into the way consumers choose to adopt a product or process, Juma found that several stalwart reasons why some things are harder to embrace and why that pattern continues today.

The Washington Post provides a long list of reason why people once opposed coffee and refrigeration, but here are three of the most common rationales.

While new technology often streamlines or improves the way we do things, Juma found that in many cases people are afraid that they’ll lose something when using the new product or process.

This loss, whether just perceived or real, is often connected to a person’s identity and the way they have lived their lives, Juma says.

By better understanding the source of the fear, companies and governments can lessen resistance to their innovations.

Many times in history, Juma says, people based their desire to accept or reject a product based on their gut feelings, not on evidence.

For example, the Post reports that people opposed to coffee once claimed the beverage could make you sterile or drive you into hysteria.

Juma believes that these justifications were likely rooted in instinctive fear of new technology.

”People react intuitively, and they collect the evidence to support what they’re doing,” Juma said. “They see a new product and there is an emotional reaction to that product because it challenges their outlook on the world. This has been the story with almost every new product.”

Juma notes that entirely new technologies — or new products that are vastly superior to ones currently on offer — are much more likely to break through that barrier of reluctance.

Going back to the coffee example, he notes that it took centuries for coffee to catch on Europe, where people just didn’t see a need when they already had tea, beer, and wine.

“Much of the resistance comes from those who support or are supported by the incumbent product,” Juma explains. “The biggest lesson from the coffee story is if a new technology has superior properties, overwhelmingly superior to its predecessors, chances are that technology will get adopted no matter what.”

For more information on why people tend to push back when it comes to new products and innovations.

Humans once opposed coffee and refrigeration. Here’s why we often hate new stuff. [The Washington Post]

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