The Psychology of Disruptive Innovation: Why It’s Hard to Embrace Change
The Psychology of Disruptive Innovation: Why It’s Hard to Embrace Change

The Psychology of Disruptive Innovation: Why It’s Hard to Embrace Change


Change is an inevitable part of life. From technological advancements to societal shifts, the world around us is constantly evolving. However, despite the undeniable benefits that disruptive innovation brings, many individuals and organizations struggle to embrace change. The psychology behind this resistance is complex and rooted in deep-seated human tendencies. In this article, we will explore the reasons why it is challenging for people to accept and adapt to disruptive innovation, and shed light on the psychological barriers that hinder our ability to embrace change.

1. Fear of the Unknown

One of the primary reasons why people find it difficult to embrace disruptive innovation is the fear of the unknown. Humans naturally seek familiarity and predictability as a means of reducing uncertainty and maintaining a sense of control. Disruptive innovations introduce new technologies, ideas, and approaches that challenge existing norms and routines. This unfamiliarity can trigger feelings of anxiety and insecurity, leading individuals to resist change.

For example, consider the introduction of electric vehicles (EVs) as a disruptive innovation in the automotive industry. While EVs offer numerous environmental and economic advantages, many people hesitate to adopt them due to concerns about range anxiety, charging infrastructure, and unfamiliarity with the technology. The fear of stepping into the unknown can be a significant barrier to embracing disruptive innovation.

2. Loss Aversion

Loss aversion, a cognitive bias deeply ingrained in human psychology, plays a significant role in our resistance to change. People tend to place more value on avoiding losses than acquiring equivalent gains. Disruptive innovation often entails letting go of established processes, traditions, and even jobs. The fear of losing what we already have can overshadow the potential benefits of embracing change, making it difficult for individuals to accept disruptive innovation.

For instance, the rise of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) has brought about significant advancements in industries such as manufacturing and customer service. However, the fear of job displacement and the uncertainty of acquiring new skills can lead to resistance and opposition to these innovations. The desire to hold onto what is familiar and comfortable can hinder our ability to adapt to disruptive technologies and new ways of doing things.

3. Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance refers to the psychological discomfort experienced when individuals hold conflicting beliefs or attitudes. Disruptive innovation often challenges deeply held beliefs, values, and assumptions, creating a clash between existing knowledge and new information. This clash creates cognitive dissonance, and individuals may engage in various defense mechanisms to reduce the discomfort.

For example, consider the introduction of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. These platforms disrupted the traditional taxi industry and posed a challenge to long-held beliefs about transportation. Individuals who had previously relied on taxis and held negative perceptions of ride-sharing services might experience cognitive dissonance when faced with evidence of their convenience and affordability. To alleviate this discomfort, they may actively resist adopting these innovations and find ways to justify their existing beliefs.

4. Status Quo Bias

The status quo bias refers to the tendency of individuals to prefer the current state of affairs over potential alternatives. This bias stems from our innate desire for stability and the perception that change involves risk and uncertainty. Disruptive innovation often requires challenging the status quo, which can be met with resistance due to the comfort and familiarity associated with the current state.

For instance, consider the transition from traditional brick-and-mortar stores to online shopping. While e-commerce offers convenience, a wider range of choices, and competitive prices, many individuals still prefer the traditional shopping experience. They may value the ability to physically interact with products, rely on established shopping routines, or enjoy the social aspects of in-person shopping. These factors contribute to the status quo bias, making it difficult for people to embrace the disruptive innovation of online retail.

5. Overcoming Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias, the tendency to seek information that confirms preexisting beliefs and ignore evidence to the contrary, can hinder our ability to embrace disruptive innovation. When faced with new ideas or technologies, individuals often seek information that aligns with their existing worldview and dismiss contradictory evidence. This selective perception prevents us from fully understanding the potential benefits and limitations of disruptive innovation.

To overcome confirmation bias, it is crucial to actively seek out diverse perspectives and information that challenge our existing beliefs. Engaging in open-minded discussions, conducting thorough research, and being receptive to differing viewpoints can help individuals and organizations overcome this psychological barrier and embrace the potential of disruptive innovation.


In conclusion, the psychology behind our resistance to disruptive innovation is rooted in our innate tendencies for familiarity, loss aversion, cognitive dissonance, status quo bias, and confirmation bias. Understanding these psychological barriers is crucial for individuals and organizations seeking to navigate the ever-changing landscape of disruptive innovation successfully. By acknowledging and addressing these psychological factors, we can foster a mindset of openness, curiosity, and adaptability, allowing us to fully embrace the transformative power of disruptive innovation and unlock its countless benefits.

Share and Enjoy !