14. October 2022

Reduce Change Resistance

In a transformational situation, changing people’s minds and behaviour is challenging. I like the book ‘The Catalyst’ by Jonah Berger, a professor at The Wharton School. He uses leading research to argue that it’s less about persuading harder and more about reducing five innate human barriers to change.


When people are pushed, they automatically push back, which is called reactance. People are reluctant to give up their agency and freedom to make their own decisions, even if it makes them worse off. Berger suggests preserving people’s agency is key by, for example, offering them a range of options, asking them rather than telling them what to do, and starting with understanding.

Easing Endowment

People have an innate sense of being tied to what they already know. A new action is always perceived as risky compared to the status quo. Berger, therefore, points out the importance of highlighting the costs of inaction and the downsides of sticking with the status quo.


People are open to new information and viewpoints only when these new viewpoints are relatively close to what they already believe (their acceptance zone). Facts and evidence too far from this zone are dismissed. Berger suggests: Do not offer opposing views but one that is in the “moving middle,” ask for less rather than a lot, and break it down into stepping stones.


People always levy an ‘uncertainty tax’ on new things. A good way to lower this tax is to make it easy for people to try the new. You can do this through freemium offers, by reducing the cost and time required to try something and making it easy to stop. The higher the trialability the more people will switch. An example: Zappos free shipping and returns.

Corroborating Evidence

When people have a fixed mindset about something, it often requires a lot of corroborating evidence to change their minds. The more people (from similar groups) endorse a new view, behaviour, or product around a person, the more likely people are to change. It’s easy to ignore a single person’s opinion, but it’s much harder to ignore a chorus, especially if the endorsements are close in time.

Which of these five methods do you use most often, and which could you use more often?

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