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Changing to a new technology is hard?

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Joanna Neil
1 April 2012

Resistance to change can be a major hurdle when introducing a new technology. Some questions for us to consider as a starting point:

  • Is changing to a new technology hard?
  • What are the main reasons for resistance for change?
  • How do we minimise resistance to change?

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Joanna Neil
9:59am 2 April 2012

Could having case studies of the uses of a new technology help with introducing new technologies? I thought that the '7 ways' series on the Educause site was good for that reason.

Does having a structure of support to help staff engage with new technologies - opportunities to try things out help? I have focused on staff here, but this could apply to students/clients etc.

Perhaps using a 'staged' role out of a technology with pilot studies is more successful? One of the problems I have encountered is when there is a sudden switch - everyone focuses on the glitches which is counterproductive and scepticism takes over...


Steve Castle
10:38am 3 April 2012

Changing to a new technology can be hard depending on your outlook and how the change is introduced. Do you automatically say no to change because it's in your character or you dislike the way change is introduced. I used to think the main resistance to change was due to people assuming they'd have to more work. I have now met quite a few people who are resistant to change-even if it benefits them. I believe change should be introduced and reasons given to why the change was necessary.. That has minimised resistance in the past. Well they're my first thoughts .

Dave Martin
9:30am 4 April 2012

I agree with you Jo regarding the technology. And that can be very difficult. The eCPD course I ran in February was for an organisation that had not run anything similar before. Whilst their web site was fit for the purpose of holding the activities and materials they had to set up a new discussion forum, their old one was very dated and not fit for the purpose of collaborative learning. This they did using Moodle but they were learning as they went along so when the course began I could not guarantee the technology.

Fortunately the decision to go ahead was proved to be the right one as everything worked smoothly but ...

Joanna Neil
10:00am 4 April 2012

There is quite an interesting crossover with a forum being both a tool and an environment for learning so it would have been very disruptive if it had not of worked!

I say this because I am happy to take risks with a technology in a face to face environment and share with students that we are trying something new, ultimately because I have control over the environment and possibly have other alternatives to offer.  Perhaps in some ways I am describing a 'pilot' or 'taster session' in the context of teaching a group and introducing new technologies where as in my original comment I was thinking about the larger cohort of staff.


Steve Castle
5:49pm 4 April 2012

Hi this is just a short note. Once yesterday's post has been moderated, I'll be willing to add more. However, yesterday I did mention that there is also a psychological challenge to overcome.

Steve Castle
6:01pm 4 April 2012

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Alex Harrison
4:59am 5 April 2012

As I’m sure we have all experienced, there will always be resistance from some parties to any change to a well-established routine and this in my personal experience is increasingly true when the change involves the introduction of new technology. As Steve stated, this resistance could stem from an underlying psychological fear of any change or as I have found in the recent past the “not invented here” mentality that resists any concept that did not originate within the working practices of the organisation.

However, I believe that the largest contributor to resistance to change is the impression that the transformation is being rushed in too hastily, which results in as Jo says, “everyone focuses on the glitches which is counterproductive”. Implementing a solid and open change management structure, which includes information dissemination to all stakeholders, explanation of the change rationale and the benefits to all parties that the change will bring, can mitigate this.

To misuse a quote from a Hungarian composer Bela Bartok; “Essentially it is a matter of evolution not revolution”.

Dave Martin
8:19am 5 April 2012

I think another factor behind resistance to change is the perception, which sometimes turns out to be true, that it will take more staff time. And I think the solution to that is for the organisation/ institution to over estimate the time required and to factor that paid staff time into the overall costs.

Alex Harrison
9:31am 6 April 2012

I wonder if the additional time is due to underestimation or in some cases complete non-inclusion of the extra training burden that the introduction of new practice, especially if accompanied by new technologies causes. This additional burden as Dave states will have an associated cost element, which could result in the training that does occur being minimal or even non-existent.

Again the solution is the careful management of change through a logical and standardised, structured process that includes all stakeholders and an element of project management.

Matt Endean
2:46pm 6 April 2012

  • Is changing to a new technology hard?
Yes - but it totally depends on what the technology is and how easy it is to adapt to using it, and how well changing has been planned into its design.
  • What are the main reasons for resistance for change?
I think there are two main reasons :-
- An actual issue with using the new technology i.e. it dosn't actually work or is very hard to make work.
- It looks different or 'buttons' are in different places. I found this when changing from Office 2003 to Office 2007 although the product works in very much the same way, the layout of the page and butttons is totally different and still now a year on from changing i still find myself searching how to do something (Google is great for this !)
  • How do we minimise resistance to change?
Plan for it, and allow time for users to adapt and 'play' with the new technology. Also the new features need to be very clear. Using my above example of Office 2007, i can't really see many benefits from changing so the extra work needed to understand the new method makes the change harder. Citing another new technology i have talked about before my Emerald ECU, i had to learn how to use the new software and how to change maps etc... however the benefit was clear to me as i got to develop the maps on the car.

Joanna Neil
8:24am 8 April 2012

In response to Steve's first comment 'I have now met quite a few people who are resistant to change-even if it benefits them.' I have found this too and it is sometimes the case that people get stuck in their ways or have 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' approach. As an institution you may have a huge spectrum of issues with introducing new technologies from those who don't want to change on the principle that what they are doing works fine through to those who find their own technologies to make their workload easier (sometimes shared sometimes not).

A suggestion would be to have opportunities for staff to share good practice so that change is motivated through colleagues rather than management. In a classroom with this sort of differentiation I would encourage peer learning which can be a more effective way of instigating change.

S M Hemmings
1:21pm 8 April 2012

I think a key question about change is (to borrow from Peter Hammill) - what have we bargained and what have we lost, what have we relinquished never even knowing it was there?

By which I mean: people will resisit change if it takes away something very important to them which they value and is part of their core identity. For example, there are lots of advantages in students submitting their assignments online - it cuts out delays in the post, a clean copy of the assignment can be stored, the impossibility of reading some tutors' handwriting goes away, feedback can be returned quickly, some standard comments can be cut and pasted etc......  At the aggregate level of all tutors and all students the service probably is better online than on paper....

However - some tutors will have devoted years to establishing a way of working on paper which they can feel quite proud of - it's efficient, supportive of the students, can be done in a way that fits in with the tutor's other work.... there is something comforting about getting out those pencils and sharpening whilst brewing the first cup oftea of the process.... They may well have devoted some of the best years of their life to this process . They are loosing something important to them.

Change is pretty much always about loosing something in order to gain something else. If that's a new lover, or a great new digital camera, or the chance to get a job in a new country the loss may be a price worth paying. If the loss is being exacted by an organisation which is imposing a new requirement upon its staff where is the benefit for them? It's not just a loss but a slap in the face for all of those hours they have put in develping themselves in the old way. And loss is the basis of depression.

New systems are often also introduced in beta versions and in live situations. Thinking back to the discussoin thread on our forum about Compendium, people were having to make an investment of time and effort getting to grips with the software and some people in the end liked it and others didn't. Others also walked away from the whole problem until they had the time and computer access to have a go at it (I was one of those). Now imagine that an employer is introducing Compendium and insisting that everybody uses it to complete an important and time-critical task whch has for years been adequately achieved on paper.....

I think resistance to change is an absolutely normal human response and all of the psychological and social factors involved in organisational change aren't problems but the very stuff of organisational life.


The Tavistock Institute produces some good materials on these aspects of organisations.


Rant over - Sue



Joanna Neil
10:10am 10 April 2012

I think these are really interesting points Sue, the loss of identity or ownership over ones working process is problematic. I suppose I see my own teaching practice as an ever changing and evolving process and if a new method to do something is available I will try it, it is the changing scenery that attracts me to teaching.

Perhaps some of the things you raise could be addressed with better processes of introduction to change and a clear rationale behind change? Perhaps consultation with staff to help preserve the things that work well, as well as introducing new methods. Using working groups, time to adjust working patterns etc...

On the other hand, one of the conclusions we might come to, regarding students, is to have alternatives available, as long as the outcomes are achievable. So perhaps it is about choices for staff, support, training, staff voice, feedback from staff, more than one way of doing something as long as they are compatible... - in fact all the things that are in place for students?

Laura Jones
5:45am 17 April 2012

Over the years I have been involved in implementing several new technologies and there is always resistance at the beginning. However, I have found that one of the most effective ways of introducing the change is to involve the relevant people (i.e. those the change is going to impact on) at the very beginning. Communication is key and it helps a great deal if people are aware of what is going to happen and why, and if they are also consulted with and thus given the opportunity to provide some initial input.

It is important to keep the communication going so that by the time the technology is implemented, people are used to the idea. This means repeating the same messages several times in order to gradually acclimatise people.

People often lack confidence too when it comes to new technology, so the communication needs plenty of reassurance and some guidance so they quickly become familiar with it.

People are sometimes negative if they have experienced past issues with technology, i.e. if they have been introduced to something which hasn't worked properly or if they haven't previously had the necessary support in using it. Again, this can be dealt with by effective communication to a certain extent, and by thorough testing before it goes live in order to minimise negative experiences and build confidence from the beginning.


Steve Castle
10:30am 18 April 2012

I agree Laura. Involving the relevant people, the people the people the change has impact on from the beginning helps to introduce changes. I do this when we are changing a system. Sometimes a change is imposed from above without any consultation with me or others affected. I think this is where people start to build their resistance.

mgt cullen
3:02pm 23 April 2012

Coming late to this debate I must say that my immediate focus was on the 'changing' in the title. Having been on the end of some badly done change management in my time I think it is possible to reach a stage where everyone resists everything almost as a reflex. Throwing technology into the mix tends to centre around issues of access, ease of use and what is going to be actively beneficial for the user? (And I agree change is always related to more initial effort having to be put in). So I thought of 2 examples that I've experienced and trying to pick up on the gains / losses as outlined above.

Management insistence that we type in 'outcomes' to a central computer database for all patients seen. Losses, time and energy at the end of every busy clinic. Gains, absolutely none that we can see.

New anaesthetic machines. Losses, time and energy as we learned to use them. Gains, joy unlimited at the well-designed, easy to use, sleek, much safer for patients technology. Still happy years down the line. 

So yes it does seem to be that some reward is necessary to make up for the pain. In the outcomes example above better communication about what is being gained somewhere in the organisation might have helped. I agree that communication is vital, though if the gain is big and obvious enough then much less communication is required. Margaret

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