Resistance as a Resource

  • Presenters: Lasse Koskela
  • Type: Workshop
  • Duration: 90
  • Audience: This session is for those who are facing resistance to their brilliant ideas. By attending, you will learn to see the resistance and its source with new eyes, and find ways to turn that resistance into solutions.

To increase our awareness of different forms of resistance to change and new ideas, to improve our ability to see the change from the resistor's perspective, and to learn about solutions that can and have helped in dealing with such resistance.


For many of us who promote the adoption of agile methods or related techniques, dealing with resistance is part of our every day life. With this in mind, the proposed session strives to help the participating change agents to collaborate on the kinds of problems and solutions they face in their working environment.

After the brief introduction of the workshop's agenda, the session organizer will share a couple of examples of resistance he has faced as a change agent and how he had addressed this resistance. These examples' purpose is to build a safe environment for the participants to share their experiences and break the ice for the session's main activity--the Resistance as a Resource game.

Invented by Dale H. Emery, the objective of the Resistance as a Resource game is to "create, learn, remember, and express ideas about how to respond to resistance." What follows is a paraphrased description of the game's rules from Dale's website (

The game can be played anywhere that ideas can be posted, such as mailing lists, electronic forums, and conference rooms with walls, white boards, or flip charts. Any number of players can play (although the smaller the group the more focused the discussion).

There are no turns--any player can make a move at any time he or she wishes. In other words, the group will freely organize around the surface with posted notes, making "moves" at their chosen pace, simultaneously rather than taking turns to "step forward."

The available moves include:

Change Post an example of change that you are promoting.
Resistance Choose one of the posted examples of change, and post an example of a statement that expresses resistance to that change.
Reason Choose one of the posted examples of resistance, and post an example of a reason why an intelligent, competent, sincere person of good will might say such a thing.
Response Choose one of the posted reasons, and post an idea about how to respond to someone who has that reason for making that statement.

The participants are encouraged to not discuss the posted examples of resistance etc. during game play. Instead, we'll stop to discuss and reflect on the relationships between some of the identified examples and behavior. Because we're not likely to be able to discuss all such clusters during the workshop, we will select a few interesting or somehow specifically relevant clusters for closer elaboration with the whole group.

In order to facilitate a smooth experience, we might split the group into a few smaller ones for playing the game. We need to strike a balance between having too small a group (not enough ideas and diversity) and too big a group (too many ideas, people not getting their message out, and clusters not forming properly). For a start, we'll begin with having groups of 8-10 people and adapt group size for the second round of the game, if that seems like a good idea based on the first round.

Benefits of participating

Participating this session helps you gain awareness for different forms of resistance as well as sensitivity for the undercurrents the resistance is building from. From the examples of observed resistance and thinking about the various possible reasons for it--the resistor's point of view--you will also learn about potential solutions to resolving the resistance your ideas are facing.

What will the organisers learn

I myself expect to learn from this workshop by making mental connections some time after the session between what I experience in the present and the stories, resistance and solutions I had heard of in this session.

While I also expect to experience first hand the same benefits as other participants, as well as gaining more experience in running workshops, I am (and Dale is) also looking forward to learning how the Resistance as a Resource game works in practice as we are not aware of it being ever organized in this kind of an open environment.

Session Outline

The session's agenda is as follows:

Introducing the workshop agenda Organizer 5 min
Sharing examples of resistance and how it was overcome Organizer 10 min
1st round of the "Resistance as a Resource" game Group 15 min
Discussing a select few "clusters" in more detail Group 15 min
2nd round of the "Resistance as a Resource" game Group 15 min
Discussing a select few "clusters" in more detail Group 15 min
Reflecting on the format of the workshop itself Group 5 min
Collecting the workshop's physical products and creating posters Group 10 min

Depending on the number of participants, the game can be played either in one group or by splitting into a number of smaller groups.

The session can also be shortened into 60 minutes by playing only one round of the Resistance As A Resource game, allowing for more flexible session scheduling. Having said that, being able to iterate between brainstorming and analysis does provide additional value over having just one round of game play.


The workshop produces "clusters" of identified change-resistance-reason-response examples. A subset of the most interesting of these clusters will be transformed into posters in order to make the workshop's output available for the rest of the conference. In order to encourage further discussion, and as the posters as such do not convey the full experience and wealth of information behind the stories of resistance, each poster will include the names of one or more persons to ask for more information from.

Looking beyond the conference, the organizer will take digital photographs of the workshop products and post them online, inviting the community at large both to discuss and disseminate the workshop's output.


To our knowledge, the Resistance As A Resource game (nor this session, of course) has never been run in public, anywhere.