Understanding Uncertainty: How to Introduce New Concepts to your Community and Staff

Posted by Monica A. Tierney, MBA, MEd., CPRE at 08/05/2023

Photo by RDNE Stock project on Pexels.com

You don’t know what you don’t know until you know. Think about that statement for a minute…

Often it is our job as Parks and Recreation professionals to educate our communities about programs, saving green space, pollinators, basins or even simply the benefits of parks and recreation. Depending on the topic, program, or initiative that you are introducing there is a good chance that you may be met with uncertainty or resistance.   

Greek Philosopher Heraclitus once said, “The only constant in life is change.” There is nothing that can be truer than this statement. At the same time change is what people fear most. In our positions as Parks and Recreation professionals we must continually evaluate our programs and introduce new concepts to our communities.

Fear of change and bias can both hinder and shut down new concepts. In some cases, fear of the unknown can elicit reactions such as anxiety, fever, chills and shaking. Bias can cause overconfidence in knowledge because we think we know more than we do about a topic. Both can be debilitating when it comes to introducing new ideas.

Why is this important? Understanding how people perceive change can give us insight into how we intend to impose new concepts and ideas to our communities. We cannot force information or new concepts to our communities and staff. Strategy, transparency, and education are a huge part of creating trust within your community.

When considering new concepts or ideas you can best prepare yourself by:

  • Do your research: Meet with subject experts and other municipalities who have successfully implemented your program.
  • Provide examples or case studies: Be prepared to share your research and case studies with elected officials, staff, and the public.
  • Be vulnerable: It is ok to be vulnerable. If someone introduces a new concept or idea to the plan, then do not hesitate to change course.
  • Learn from your mistakes. Do not be afraid to fail, learn from your mistakes and move on.
  • Create a plan: Have a solid implementation strategy, poke holes in it and readjust.
  • Become a subject matter expert, be prepared to sell you new idea with confidence.

In a world where change is constant, there is no room for “we have always done it that way.” Everything that we offer and do should continuously be evaluated and adjusted as needed.