This content relates to : NEW PRODUCT & SERVICE DEVELOPMENT

Jagdish Sheth

Emory University 

I think we need more and more research about why people resist change. I think there are some underlying constructs such as market inertia, habit; constructs such as perceived risk for example, many types of risks. But I think it needs to go beyond that. My own view is that future research on resistance may be much more contextual. Certain cultures and certain faiths, religions, encourage people not to change. Institutions generally don’t like their individuals, either employees, or customers, or suppliers to change. So, there are institutional obstacles to bringing about a change. And that we need to understand. It may not be the user of the product or the service, but the institution as a buyer simply says, we won’t change.  We do not see the economic benefit of making a change or social acceptance of making the change. So, the decision-making is not there. I think we have not researched that part as yet. The one additional area has to do with really cultural differences. More traditional societies generally believe in status quo. Why change? It has worked for thousands of years. We have a well-established culture and then you have the Western world which through the industrial revolution became pro-change. So, maybe we have two sides of the coin where we are changing too fast and therefore “can we slow down?” On the other side is that we are not changing enough fast. And therefore “can we speed up the change?” I think we need to do both. I personally believe that innovation will come through faster and faster.   

Major breakthroughs will come because the digital age enables innovation to do it more at a much larger scale, much larger scope even and at the same time in a very rapid cycle. In fact, I have come to realize that the half-life of knowledge is getting shorter and shorter. My software experts will tell me the half-life of a software, new language, is only 18 months and declining. I don’t know Python. I don’t even know C plus, plus. I grew up in the time of FORTRAN language. Think about that and COBOL. I mean FORTRAN IV was the maximum I learned, understood what language is all about. And when I talk to my younger colleagues and students, “Do you know Fortran?” They say, “What’s a Fortran?” Isn’t that interesting? So, change is very rapid.  

Technology is bringing about so many changes. So, I think we have to understand the impact of technology on resistance to change or acceleration of change. I also believe that it’s very culture-bound, as I mentioned earlier. And therefore, understanding cultural contours of resistance to change.

Fortunately, I find that the Eastern world and the Western world are converging more than what Rudyard Kipling, taught us. Remember? Very devoted Indian, British Indian. He was born there, he loved India. And in his ballad, he talked about: East is East, West is West, the twain shall never meet or something similar. He’s dead wrong. He’s not only dead, but he’s wrong also. Because have you seen the Westernisation of Asian children, whether it’s Korea, Japan, China, India. They behave just like their cousins here. And now you see the Easternisation of the world taking place with spirituality. I mean yoga, meditation are worldwide events now – think about that. How much the Western world is changing. The Western world has been pro-change generally. So, any innovation from Eastern cultures, not just in spirituality but in foods, habits, you know, daily living, I think it’s very key, Western culture will adopt. So acceleration of change in the Western world will be faster whereas we will resist in the Eastern world because we think our system is quite fine.  

So that’s a very interesting area. I find this phenomenon of Easternisation of the world more fascinating, I have a paper I think I wrote recently, especially in food, beverages, alternate health systems. And ultimately it becomes fusion. It’s not Indian yoga taught by Indian expert or a person. I call it Christian yoga; in a church they are teaching yoga now, which was unthinkable at one time you know. But things are happening. So fusion is the next major research opportunity to understand under the banner of diffusion of innovation or resistance to change.    


Jagdish Sheth 

Charles H. Kellstadt Chaired Professor of Marketing, Goizueta Business School, Emory University