Resistance – a progress hurdle

“Resistance” progress hurdle
Dr. Adam Tacy PhD, MBA avatar

A seeker’s resistance to a proposition needs to be at or below their tolerance.

There is a four-level scale of resistance we can adopt backed by identification why that level may exist. Helping us reason how to lower this hurdle.

Progress hurdles

Just a quick recap of progress hurdles, they are:

progress hurdles – factors that if felt, uniquely and phenomenologically, by a progress seeker as too high, may lead them to decide to not start, or to abandon, a progress attempt.

Instead of viewing them as barriers, we refer to these factors as hurdles because seekers may choose to progress regardless of their size. A barrier would imply no progress attempts.

Editing below here

What’s your first reaction to the proposition of building a small nuclear power plant in everyone’s houses to supply power?

I’d imagine many would say no thanks. Some might say yes please. Others would want to wait. And some would be very against the proposition.

This is an example of the resistance hierarchy: none, postponement, rejection and opposition.

Explore resistance progress hurdle >>

And Kleijnen et al, who identified this hierarchy, also summerised several factors that lead to the different levels of resistance (see “An exploration of consumer resistance to innovation and its antecedents“). These are shown in the following picture.

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

One factor is a collection of risks that are physical, economic, functional, and social in nature. Traditions and norms, usage patterns, and perceived image are the remaining factors.

And there are mappings between factors and types of resistance. Physical risk, for example – will this proposition physically harm me – generates opposition. Other factors contribute to different types of resistance.

You can already begin to map those who resist the at home nuclear plant proposal to these factors. But let’s explore the factors a little more.


Risks must be minimized in order to persuade the progress seeker that the resistance hurdle is low enough to engage the proposition. And the resistance hierarchy sees the four risks listed in the table below.

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?

I’m sure you’ll agree that few of us will engage with a proposition that will intentionally cause physical harm to ourselves or others. It’s not impossible though. Certain medical procedures do indeed cause harm (loss of function). But they happen for a wider benefit. And there are also, sadly, other propositions that harm others, such as those used in warfare.

The functional risk is similar enough to the concept of progress potential that we can ignore for now. 

And economic risk, whilst related, should not be confused with the next progress hurdle we consider(service elsewhere). We are specifically addressing the seekers’ concern that their investment will not be wasted. Will the proposition be phased out soon, for example? Or does it necessitate integration with other propositions that do not yet exist?

Finally, there is social risk. So, am I going to look/feel ridiculous? Or will this proposal cause an awkward social situation? An example would be the first version of Google Glass and the glassholes who became known for their anti-social or creepy behaviour . This is also a good example to introduce the following factor.

traditions & norms

Tradition & norms – the Inherited body of customs and beliefs within a relevant social contextKleijnen et al (2009) “An exploration of consumer resistance to innovation and its antecedents

In addition to being a social risk, the first edition of Google Glass defied conventions and norms. See the above definition. Next to nobody wants to be talking to someone who is secretly recording them.

Every social context has a body of customs and beliefs. And a proposition that goes against those increases the rejection progress hurdle.

But the key word here is context. Google Glass failed because, among other things, the inventors, and the small handful of users, were unable to understand social context. Snap, on the other hand, also provided photo-taking glasses. However, they were primarily designed and marketed for the social context of groups of friends having fun and recording that. One proposition was rejected, while the other encountered little opposition.

usage patterns

Usage patterns – the habitual behaviour formed when using a product frequently over timeKleijnen et al (2009) “An exploration of consumer resistance to innovation and its antecedents

Are you familiar with the Luddites? They perhaps belong in the preceding section because their resistance resulted in outright opposition through the destruction of machinery. But we’ll use them here because they’re also a good anecdote about change. Which is really what the usage patterns is about.

Back in 1779 a group of skilled artisan textile workers rioted in Manchester, UK. Their grievance was the impact on their livelihoods by factory owners introducing mechanical looms. It’s a story about change. For a long time textiles had been created the same way by these skilled artisans. Now factory owners could employ cheap labour instead due to automation.

Back in 1779, a group of skilled artisan textile workers rioted in Manchester, UK. Their grievance was the impact of factory owners introducing mechanical looms on their livelihoods. It’s a story about change management. Or rather a failure in change management. For a long time, these skilled artisans produced textiles in the same manner. Because of automation, factory owners could now hire cheap labour instead.

Despite attempts by workers to negotiate a way to manage the change, factory owners persisted. Eventually the Luddites rioted and started smashing the mechanical looms. They also acquired the slightly incorrect reputation of being anti-technology.

And Kleijnen et al. summarised that there is resistance to innovations that contradict habitual behaviour. This, we contend, holds true for propositions. They must either follow usage patterns. Alternatively, the progress helper must attempt to manage the change. If not then the resistance hurdle remains high in the eyes of seekers.

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

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 where common perception within a society is not expecting them.

The best kitchen knives, for example, are perceived the world over as being made in Japan. A knife maker from Chad, just a randomly picked country here, is going to struggle to lower this hurdle. Or Northampton based shoe makers are seen as strong brands. But if they started offering saucepans there would likely be a strong rejection of the proposition.

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