We often wonder why there is such resistance to change. The answer lies in how people are made, and how they are influenced by others in regard to change. In general, people are change-resistant rather than change-friendly.

Those who introduce change are called innovators. Innovators are those who dream up new ways of doing things (2.5% of the population). Those who embrace change first are the early adapters - they see a good idea and adopt it (13.5% of the population). 34% of our population are called the early majority. They are more deliberate in thinking through the innovation but, after consideration, will adapt. Then there are the late majority individuals (also 34%) who will be skeptical of the innovation but eventually respond after seeing the benefits. Finally there are the laggards (traditionalists) who will probably never respond. For Laggards (16%) innovation is a bad thing.

Notice that the percentage of folks who can be labeled as "change-friendly" (innovators and early adapters) is only 16 percent: those who could be labeled as "change-cautious but open" equal 34 percent (early majority); and those who are change-skeptical or change averse equal 50 percent (late majority and laggards). This explains why even the best ideas will be met with caution, skepticism or negativity by the majority of any group.

There is nothing inherently "good or bad" about how people respond to change; it is how they are wired. A lot of obstinate behavior we see regarding change does not come from bad attitudes (although some does) but rather from how people are hard-wired to respond to change.

This illustrates the challenge for leaders to help people move in new directions, knowing that the majority of their people are not in the innovator or early adapter category. Almost any major change you can make is going to be greeted by these responses, at least in the beginning.

The statistics on change come from the groundbreaking work of Everett M. Rogers in his book Diffusion of Innovations, a must read for those who are change agents.
  • Feb 08, 2013
  • Category: News
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