Navigating Natural Resistance to Change

By Michelle James | Posted 6/2/06 | Updated 5/10/23

Creativity, by its nature, births into the world something new. It is a naturally transformative force.

A process that has the potential to unleash real creativity into a system, which results in real change, will likely meet up with natural resistance somewhere along the way. There is something organic happening that goes beyond "fear of risk taking." That's why simply talking about risk taking doesn't make people risk-takers. There is a readying process — a preparing of a system — for change that helps it go more smoothly.

Natural resistance is an organic force found throughout nature's own creative process. It serves as the organism's protection until the critical moment it outgrows its purpose. The bud's resistance to the bloom is felt most profoundly at the critical point just before the flower is about to blossom — that's when the bloom feels the most resistance of the bud up against it. The resistance of the shell to the chick is felt more profoundly as the chick is about to hatch — the chick has to break through the resistance of the shell to be born into the world.

In nature, there is an embedded dynamic trajectory, or life energy, that helps the process. At the moment of birth, the chick's momentum to be born is stronger than the shell's programming to protect. Resistance becomes no match for the life that is bursting forth.

Preparing a System for Change

A similar resistance shows up in individuals, groups and organizational systems as they seek to birth a new vision, product, strategy, service or working paradigm. The following are three of the many ways to navigate the terrain of natural resistance — preparing the system for change:

1. Discover the dynamic trajectory.

— the passion, mission, purpose, intention, enthusiasm, life energy, motivating directive — that is strong enough to move through the accompanying resistance… and work from that dynamic momentum. Every person, team and organization has an embedded collective intelligence that forms its co-creative potential. Putting that into motion is a powerful, generative force that enables change.

2. Recognize and acknowledge natural resistance as it shows up.

Just as the bud is pliable and the egg is breakthrough-able, natural resistance is ultimately maneuverable. It has a quality of mutability no matter how much push-back it wields at first. By acknowledging resistance as a part of the process, without judgment, people feel safer and less guarded, and it loses much of its power.

3. Practice the non-habitual… habitually.

By consistently applying innovative techniques that challenge people to think and act in unfamiliar ways as part of the cultural norm, natural resistance to change measurably reduces over time.

©2006 Michelle James. All rights reserved.