Resistance to the Flow of Change

The rapidity of change in our modern time is faster than a red bee. The faster the change is the greater human resistance is to the change. We face accelerated change and accelerated resistance to change. We live in turmoil.

Much has been written about change. This post offers a metaphor to understand change and come to grasp it. The post concludes that understanding the need to change by all parties is the prerequisite to managing change.

Change Metaphor and Resistance Path

The electric bulb offers a practical metaphor to comprehend change with one big difference to cater for in human acceptance of change. The electrons flow in a light bulb is enhanced by the greater potential difference between the two terminals (positive and negative terminals). That is to say, the greater difference between the current state and the new state that change creates allows change to flow at a faster rate, but also with increased resistance. The greater resistance is the less light we get because the energy of resistance heats up the tungsten wires in the lamp. We get less of the desired light energy and more of the undesirable heat energy.

Research established that electrons do not move in the tungsten wires in a straight path, but rather in a zigzag path. It is amazing that the scanning microscope shows that the tungsten wires have a zigzag shape. This shape results from repeated collisions of moving electrons with the fixed atoms of the tungsten wire.

Source: Wikipedia

Change Movement Is More Complex in Humans

There is a big difference between the resistance to electricity flow in light bulbs and the flow of change in humans. The tungsten wire has the same atoms. It is homogeneous. However, the flow of the current of change in humans is not. No two people are alike and may behave differently to change. Some humans may welcome change most others will oppose it. The flow of change will therefore take a complex path than that the flow of electrons experiences. This adds to the complexity of managing change.

Human Resistance to Change

People want to stay in their comfort zone. The less convinced of the need to change, the more they shall resist change. What fuels up this resistance is the lack of understanding of their point of view. If people sense this lack of understanding, the more they shall fear change, and the more they shall resist it. The minute people realize that managers do not understand their point of view; the more they shall try to explain their thinking and no movement shall happen. Like what happens in a tungsten wire that heats up so the climate of business shall heat up and shall get more of the undesirable heat of conflict rather the desirable light of change.

Resistance to change leads to less generation of light and more of frictional heat. In these climates, affecting change becomes less likely.

The first step to affecting change is therefore to raise the understanding of change for if not the resistance to change shall take complex paths with more complexity than just being a zigzag one.

Requirements for Understanding of Change

Understanding the need to change is what makes people broader to change rather than being “thin” to it. Like a tungsten wire- the broader it is, the greater is the flow shall be. Without this understanding, affecting change shall be a losing effort.

People want to know where they are going- it is important to explain to them where we hope to be once we implement change.

We need leaders who can walk the talk and are great communicators to plant the need to change and persuade others of the need to change. People hate to feel forced to change and if such feelings prevail, they shall resist more change.

People need to own change so as not to resist it by listening to their point of views, understanding it, and only then suggest an alternative.

People need to know the rewards of changing and going through its painful process. To make the change process more painful by not understanding and feeling the rewards people will oppose change increasingly and the current of change will find it hard to flow.


The discussions reveal the opposing forces allowing for the flow of the current of change and the resistance to change. This resistance to change is not linear and is more complex in shape than just being zigzag.

The current of the flow of change shall only produce the heat of resistance rather than the light of a better future if change happens if a lack of understanding of the need to change is lacking. Without this understanding, all efforts to affect change shall go to waste.

The main source of resistance to change does not understand it.

Employees must feel that the management understands their position before they may understand management and the need for change.

It is managing the understanding of change more than managing change itself.


Ali Anani
Ali Anani
My name is Ali Anani. I hold a Ph.D. from the University of East Anglia (UK, 1972) Since the early nineties I switched my interests to publish posts and presentations and e-books on different social media platforms.

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