As Enterprise 2.0 and social business technologies work their way through the Hype Cycle, the resistance to change understandably receives more attentions. A 2.0 Adoption Council study proclaims “Resistance is Real”. Culture has always been on the radar screen, now it’s right into the practitioner’s face again.

Enterprise 2.0 projects that don’t meet the interests and needs of the users will hit a wall. Labeling and treating such a situation as “resistance” can make it even worse.

For a recent big tech project at a bank, the implementation proposals from consultants all contained a section about “addressing resistance”. After hearing a few of these proposals, the executive in charge of the sales force got up and asserted “when my people don’t hit their sales targets, I would not let them get away with talk about ‘resistance from prospects’. I’d tell them to go back and listen to the customer needs and retool their products and sales approaches.”

If Enterprise 2.0 aims at the active involvement of employees, shouldn’t they be treated as we would treat customers? Sooner or later E2.0 champions face problems getting in their way of the envisioned project rollout or adoption. What happens when they label these problems “resistance”? Essentially, they declare the other side (the employees) to be the problem. Such thinking is in danger to reduce the people to ‘targets’ that need to be handled so that they can ‘overcome the problem’. At the same time, the evangelist aim at keeping their gospel unchanged, – the problem is with the “resisting target audience”.

How about engaging the employees early on, to design a solution that pays respect to their needs and pains? Their motivations and attitudes are not as mysterious or “irrational” as they may appear to an outsider. It’s about active listening and skilled facilitation of participative design processes. We have seen such approaches empowering both the employees and the Enterprise 2.0 champions.

The new tools enable new solutions to existing problems. It’s about more about the “solutions” than about the “adoption” of the tools. The future users “buy” their solution and seize its potential. Such a buy-in goes beyond addressing “resistance”.