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The Human Element

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The Human Element

Overcoming the Resistance That Awaits New Ideas


15 min read
9 take-aways
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What's inside?

Identify – and overcome – the frictions that hamper change and innovation.

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The road to progress – and business success – is littered with failures: evidence of the forces that can wreck even the most promising innovations and business models. To help leaders, entrepreneurs and other change-makers maximize their impact, management experts Loran Nordgren and David Schonthal offer an examination of the subtle reasons why many good ideas and ventures fail. Psychological research and case studies add heft to this clear, commonsense study of frequently overlooked impediments. It serves as a valuable addition to the management bookshelf.


Four types of friction can sabotage change and innovation.

When innovators and change-makers try to promote their products and ideas, they tend to focus on the benefits of embracing them. And they often fail. People resist embracing new things for four basic reasons: first, inertia; second, the effort required to make a change; third, emotional responses; and fourth, reactance – the backlash that can happen when a person feels pressured. These four sources of friction correspond to the four basic elements of innovation: the extent of change it introduces, the costs it imposes, the audience’s response and the innovator’s approach to introducing the idea.

Think of the benefits of a change or innovation, as well as the costs and risks of not adopting it, as fuel: They drive an innovation or offering forward. Fuel works because it highlights the reasons to make a change or embrace an offering. But fuel has limitations, and it loses power when it encounters humans’ sensitivity to costs and negativity bias – the propensity to give negative things more weight than positive ones. Regardless of the benefits of a choice, even a small amount of negatives can cause people to turn...

About the Authors

Loran Nordgren, a professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School of Management, studies the psychological processes underlying how people think and act. David Schonthal, a professor of strategy, innovation and entrepreneurship at Kellogg, teaches new venture creation, design thinking, health care innovation and creativity.

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