Are Your Scientists Resistant to Change? Five Strategies to Help Persuade a Switch to an ELN


For hundreds of years, the paper notebook has been the standard documentation system used within every laboratory in the world. Most scientists began to use a paper notebook in college because it was the only option available but then continued during their careers because it was familiar and comfortable. This familiarity creates a challenge for laboratory directors who are looking to implement an electronic laboratory notebook (ELN) – scientists who are resistant to change from their current modus operandi.

switch to ELN
The paper laboratory notebook hasn’t changed in hundreds of years. This longevity has made many resistant to adapting today.
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It is possible to overcome their resistance to change with the right strategy. Below are five suggestions that will help laboratory managers mitigate and overcome this resistance:

  1. Make it personal – Many laboratory directors justify the need for change by focusing on how the ELN will benefit the laboratory or organization as a whole. Unfortunately, this approach may not be effective in gaining individual buy-in, as people tend to focus first on themselves and not the organization. The best way to overcome people’s resistance is to demonstrate to them how the adoption of an ELN can benefit them personally. This may include explaining ELN functionality, like the direct funneling of test results from laboratory instruments and collaboration tools that allow for the sharing of results, which can save them time and reduce administrative tasks.
  2. Link the shift to similar changes – Employees are more open to change when they perceive it to be connected to other issues about which they are passionate. For example, many people are concerned about environmental issues, such as recycling and reducing the amount of paper consumption in the office. By connecting the ELN to a paperless or environmentally-friendly office, people might be more receptive to the idea of change.
  3. Explain potential losses – Economists have noted that people tend to focus on what they will lose rather than potential gains. Rather than explaining the potential benefits that might result from ELN implementation, such as digital signatures and the ability to search for data, it might be better to start with what might be lost if the organization does not switch to an ELN. For example, there is the potential that competing laboratories might make a discovery first or that clients will select competitors because their ELN allows them more visibility into the process. Demonstrating the potential negatives that could come about without the adoption might have a greater impact than showcasing the positives first. Chances are, once personnel see what there is to lose, the gains will quickly become apparent.
  4. Group your audience – Different departments may react differently to an ELN depending upon their needs. For example, chemistry scientists might be interested in an ELN’s ability to define structure renderings such as bond lengths, stereochemistry and atom colors. A biology group, on the other hand, might be more interested in the ability to record unstructured data like microscopy and gel images. A helpful strategy to increase adoption may be to separate these audiences for presentations tailored to showcase specific features of an ELN valuable to that group.
  5. Beware of overload – It is important to note that when presented with a lot of new information, people may only hone in on specific points and let the rest fade into the periphery. Daryl Conner, a change expert, likes to compare people to sponges. At first, a sponge can absorb a lot of water. However, it eventually becomes full and the water simply runs off. To ensure that laboratory employees do not become overloaded with details, allow them processing time to think about and discuss an ELN’s potential before providing them with more information.

Due to the prevalence of paper notebooks throughout the years, many scientists view the ELN with skepticism and may put up resistance to the idea of implementation. By following the suggested management strategies listed above, scientists may be more open to the idea of an ELN and will perhaps be more willing to accept it.

If you are considering adopting an ELN within your laboratory, you may want to consider the Accelrys Notebook. For more information, please visit our website today.

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