Spreading Innovation

There’s a long but good Atul Gawande article in this week’s New Yorker worth reading that’s relevant to what many of us are trying to do -- spread innovation and change minds. He writes about why some new innovations spread quickly and others don’t.  Talks about the fact that doctors adopted anesthesia really quickly but it took them years and years to begin sterilizing operating rooms (arguably a more important innovation).

Talks about the critical importance of the human factor in spreading innovation – and how a simple treatment for Cholera (a mix of sugar, salt and water) never spread in Bangladesh until human beings went out on foot and sold it, door to door.  Also uses a more relevant analogy:

This is something that salespeople understand well. I once asked a pharmaceutical rep how he persuaded doctors—who are notoriously stubborn—to adopt a new medicine. Evidence is not remotely enough, he said, however strong a case you may have. You must also apply “the rule of seven touches.” Personally “touch” the doctors seven times, and they will come to know you; if they know you, they might trust you; and, if they trust you, they will change. That’s why he stocked doctors’ closets with free drug samples in person. Then he could poke his head around the corner and ask, “So how did your daughter Debbie’s soccer game go?” Eventually, this can become “Have you seen this study on our new drug? How about giving it a try?” As the rep had recognized, human interaction is the key force in overcoming resistance and speeding change.