What a smartphone says about change resistance

When it comes to a digital transformation (we prefer the word adaptation) the biggest challenge is people. And the key part of that, aside from personalities, siloed and kingdom building is the ability to adapt to change.

In the ethnographic studies I’ve done at the start of developing a digital adaptation strategy for organizations, the first thing I do is look at the type of smartphone the employee is using. I ask them what they like about the phone they’re using. This helps me to understand their socioeconomic situation as well as their mindset in regards to adopting new technologies. This is critical information to identifying who will be the most resistant to change and help to adjust the interview accordingly.

If they answer that they wish they could have the latest, but can’t afford it because of their income or their partner/spouse makes those decisions, this indicates a socio-economic situation. They may be desirous of something better, but their place in life doesn’t allow. 

If the answer is that they just love the smartphone so much and they know it works, or that they just prefer to what they see on the market, it can be indicative of change resistance. This has proven out correct about 95% of the time when it comes to predicting who will be more ready towards change.

We tend to place employees in an organisation into one of three categories; Pioneers, Pragmatists and Laggards. The pioneers are the ones who will be highly adaptive and adopt new digital approaches, pragmatists see the business case and will follow because it makes sense and laggards will resist change. More on this later.

While one might immediately think that a laggard or someone using an older piece of technology is not going to be a champion of change, that’s not necessarily the case. In some cases, they can become a very reliable change agent depending on their personality traits. Generally, those who resist new technologies have reasons. The key is to uncover what they are. The smartphone they use provides the perfect opportunity to dive a little deeper. I never discredit them, but rather seek to uncover the why. This can lead to critical insights.

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