What’s inaction and how to move forward from it

Estimated read time: 3 minutes

Inaction can come in many forms in the corporate world. Let’s maintain the status quo, don’t push anything new forward, and let’s hunker down. Especially in a stressful time, it seems like it can be easier to default to inaction than to do something new. Especially when the current status is mostly working.

With that in mind, let’s discuss the following:

What is inaction?

As Jen Allen of Challenger Inc. mentioned in “The Business Storytelling Show,” inaction happens when people don’t want to decide for one reason or another. Or it’s a lot of work even to make a decision of any kind. Think of when you try to make dinner plans with ten people, she said. It can be a never-ending chain of messages.

“And then you change the date,” she said.

The same happens in business in smaller and larger settings. For example, let’s say somebody has an idea for a project, but it’s unclear where it fits, or the person who would be doing the project doesn’t have the right skills. That can easily lead to inaction by freezing, not doing anything, and instead focus on the tasks they are skilled in.

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In decision-making moments, it can be similar. For example, let’s say one person in a company wants to buy a piece of tech, but another doesn’t see the point or is even too busy to consider it; they might go with inaction. Just by default.

It’s a common problem. For example, in B2B sales, Jen said 30-some percent of buying processes end in no decision. Not a yes or a no, but just nothing.

But inaction is different from just having a preference of keeping the status quo, as discussed in the book “The Jolt Effect.”

Inaction  means people are just not making a decision but preferring the status quo – i.e. nothing will change. Their decision was nothing should  change.

How can we spot inaction in our own or other people’s behaviors?

It’s way easier to spot action. Somebody did something. That’s why people get in trouble for breaking the rules, right? They did this to break that rule. Not doing anything is way harder to spot or even prove. How do you prove I intentionally dragged my feet on this project of importance to you, for example? Maybe I was just busy with what I considered a higher-priority project.

In a good content performance culture, we must be honest and collaborative. So we can ask cooperative questions:

  • What do you think?
  • Where does this fit in your priorities?
  • Do you have time for this?
  • Are you the right person?

At the very least, it opens the door to discovering where the project fits and at what point. The same holds talking to external buyers or partners. Where does this project even fit into their universe? Do they care? As “The Mom Test” book explains, ask them questions that reveal their true feelings. Don’t just ask: “Would this be of interest.”

Read next: 8 surefire ways to set meaningful deadlines

Turning inaction into action

Turning inaction into action comes down to several factors:

  • First, timing – can people even engage to take action then?
  • Priorities – if they are trying to fix a much hairier problem, in their opinion, it’ll be hard to go ahead with this new project or purchase.
  • Relevance – how relevant is that to what they do and care about?

Inaction can feel like a security blanket of comfort – if I do nothing, nothing will change. Things will be fine. And that can work, but other times it can easily backfire. If nothing else, ongoing inaction will not help a company move forward, be innovative and improve products, services, and experiences.

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