David Schonthal: How To Overcome The Resistance That Always Awaits New Ideas

2,500 years ago, Greek philosopher, Heraclitus famously observed that “there is nothing permanent in life except change.”

And anyone who’s lived just a few years on our planet knows old Heraclitus was speaking truth.

Despite our intellectual acceptance of the ancient sage’s observation, we humans tend to strongly resist & even reject change – something many a workplace leader has come to discover when they’ve tried to alter a policy, introduce a new system or move a team in a new direction.

David Schonthal – award winning professor of Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management – is the co-author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller, “The Human Element: Overcoming The Resistance That Awaits New Ideas.”

And his brilliant insight is that what most marketers, innovators, leaders, activists, & anyone else in the business of creating change, operate on the same deep assumption. It is the belief that the best (& perhaps only) way to convince people to embrace a new idea is to heighten the appeal of the idea itself.

They try to put more “fuel” on the benefits of the change instead of investigating – & even anticipating – the psychological & emotional reasons why people are reluctant to support the change or even entirely resist it.

A word we’re all going to hear more often this year is “friction.” David introduces it to describe what often inhibits successful change initiatives – & he asserts that there are four key “frictions” that operate against innovation & change.

  • We humans like to stick with what we know – even when we know it limits us.
  • We follow the path of least resistance & seek to minimize effort.
  • We often feel emotionally threatened by requests to change our behavior.
  • And we have a very strong impulse to resist when we feel change is being imposed upon us.

Of course, David has developed uncommon remedies to all four of these “frictions” & this episode is devoted to introducing them.

As a special feature, at the end of the podcast, Mark asks David to explain how he would use all of his research & knowledge to successfully overcome resistance to implementing the change in organizations that we all desire: to break away from our traditional leadership practices once & for all, & introduce a “Lead From The Heart” philosophy. His response provides a blueprint for all workplace managers to follow.

By Mark C. Crowley

Mark C. Crowley is the author of Lead From The Heart: Transformational Leadership For The 21st Century which has been taught in 11 American universities. He is a global speaker, leadership consultant and thought leader on the topics of workplace culture and employee engagement.