Resistance – a progress hurdle

“Resistance” progress hurdle
Dr. Adam Tacy PhD, MBA avatar
What we’re thinking

Not all propositions are going to be welcomed by all seekers.

Kleijnen et al identify a hierarchy of resistance – postponement, rejection and opposition, to which we insert none – that we’ll use as the resistance progress hurdle. They also identify factors that contribute to each levels, giving a framework to reduce this hurdle.

A seeker’s resistance to a proposition needs to be low enough for them to engage. And it goes hand in hand with the adoptability progress hurdle.

Resistance to a proposition

Innovation theory is typically built on the premise that all innovation is good, we just need to get people to adopt it.

But what’s your first reaction to the proposition of building a small nuclear power plant in everyone’s houses to supply power? Let’s say it has a low hurdle to adoption. I’d imagine a few might say yes please; others would want to wait to see how it worked for others; many would say no; and some would sit outside my office with placards protesting. And it’s not do do with adoptability aspects.

This is an example of Kleijnen et al’s resistance hierarchy (from “An exploration of consumer resistance to innovation and its antecedents“):

  • postponement
  • rejection
  • opposition.

In their paper they also identify several factors that lead to the different levels of resistance. As shown in the following diagram.

Kleijnen et al’s factors involved in resistance to innovations and their resistance hierarchy
These are the factors involved in the resistance hurdle

Where we can read that, for example, physical risks – such as fear of nuclear reactor going wrong in your basement – can lead to opposition.

Let’s explore the factors a little more.


Minimising risks is key to convince the progress seeker that the resistance hurdle is sufficiently low. The resistance hierarchy identifies four distinct risks.

physicalwill this proposition unintentionally physically harm me or others?
economicwill I waste service credits?
functionalcan I make the progress offered?
socialam I going to look/feel silly when using this proposition? or am I going to create a social situation if engaging with this proposition?

Engaging with a proposition that intentionally causes physical harm is highly unlikely for most individuals. Exceptions exist for certain medical procedures where harm is endured for broader benefits or unfortunately in propositions used in warfare.

Economic risk, though related to the equitable service exchange progress hurdle, relates to wastage. Will the proposition be phased out soon, for example? Or does it necessitate integration with other propositions that do not yet exist?

We can observe that functional risk is covered by the progress economy concept of progress potential judgements; so we din’t need to consider further.

Lastly, social risk involves the apprehension of appearing ridiculous or causing awkward social situations when interacting with a proposition. A notable example is the initial version of Google Glass, where users garnered attention as “glassholes” due to perceived anti-social or creepy behaviour.

traditions & norms

Tradition & norms – the Inherited body of customs and beliefs within a relevant social context

Kleijnen et al (2009) “An exploration of consumer resistance to innovation and its antecedents

In every social setting, there are a set of customs and beliefs. When a proposition contradicts those, it moves higher in the rejection progress hurdle.

The first version of Google Glass, for instance, challenged established conventions and norms as few people wish to engage in conversations with someone surreptitiously recording them. In contrast, Snap offered photo-capturing glasses, yet their primary design and marketing catered to the social context of friends enjoying themselves and documenting those moments. The rejection of one proposition stood in stark contrast to the minimal opposition encountered by the other.

We need to be aware that traditions & norms vary across countries, cultures and contexts.

usage patterns

Usage patterns – the habitual behaviour formed when using a product frequently over time

Kleijnen et al (2009) “An exploration of consumer resistance to innovation and its antecedents

Are you familiar with the Luddites?

In 1779, a group of skilled textile workers rioted in Manchester, UK, driven by their concern about the impact of factory owners introducing mechanical looms. These artisans had been crafting textiles in a traditional manner for decades. Now a new proposition – a mechanical loom – was being introduced by factory owners. This was against established usage patterns.

Such changes require strong change control, often at a societal level.

A similar ongoing debate is the move to a cashless society. After centuries if cash we see pockets of resistance to cashless initiatives.

perceived image

Perceived image – the unique set of associations within the minds of customers based on e.g. the product category the innovation belongs to, the manufacturer that produces it, or the country that produces it

Kleijnen et al (2009) “An exploration of consumer resistance to innovation and its antecedents

What are you as a helper known for? Can you extend that to new propositions? Or will your seekers struggle to seepast their perceived image of you.

Can McDonalds open a luxury dining experience? Will people buy top quality kitchen knives from Chad instead of the recognised best manufacturers from Japan (I just randomly picked Chad here)? Or could Northampton based shoe makers, seen as strong brands, start offering saucepans?

The perceived image hints at brands. Something we’ll cover in the confidence progress hurdle.

In short, the resistance hurdle is higher for a helper offering progress in places the common perception within a society is not expecting them.

Resistance progress hurdle

Here’s the visualisation of the resistance progress hurdle.

“Resistance” progress hurdle
“Resistance” progress hurdle

For every progress attempt we need to lower the seeker’s judgement in the resistance hierarchy to where they are OK to engage. This does not mean we have to remove resistance. Only that we have to get it below the level the seeker will actually not engage.

Relating to value

As with other progress hurdles, the hurdle potentially limits progress, from which lower value will emerge.

Relating to innovation

We should use innovation of the proposition to minimise this hurdle. And we can leverage the factors that lead to resistance to do that. For example to manage any deviation from traditions & norms like Snap did; or to work on lowering perceptions of physical, economic and social risks.

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Let’s progress together through discussion…