How One Big Company Overcame Resistance To Bring About Major Transformational Change

Greg Satell
6 min readJan 8, 2022
Photo by Artur Shamsutdinov on Unsplash

When Barry Libenson arrived at Experian as Global CIO in 2015, he devoted his first few months to speaking with customers. Everywhere he went he heard the same thing: they wanted access to real-time data. On the surface, it was a straightforward business transformation, but Libenson knew that it was far more complicated than that

To switch from batch processed credit reports to real-time access would require a technology transformation — from an on-premise to a cloud architecture — and in order to develop cloud applications effectively, he would have to initiate a skills-based transformation — from waterfall to agile development.”

So what at first appeared to be a straightforward initiative was actually three separate transformations stacked on top of one another. To make things even more difficult, people had good reason to be hostile to each aspect. Still, by being strategic about overcoming resistance from the start, he achieved a full transformation in less than three years.

Understanding Cognitive Biases

One of the key concerns about Libenson’s program at Experian was that the company would lose control over its business model. The firm had prospered selling processed credit reports. Giving customers real-time access to data seemed to undercut a value proposition that had proven itself over decades, almost as if McDonald’s decided to stop selling hamburgers.

These were not casual criticisms. In fact, they reflected instinctual cognitive biases that are deeply rooted in our consciousness. The first, loss aversion, reflects our tendency to avoid losses rather than seek out new gains. The second, called the availability heuristic, reflects our preference for information that is easy to access and internalize, such as the decades of profits generated by credit reports rather than the vague promise of a new cloud-driven business model.

A similar dynamic is plays out between the Black Lives Matter movement and police unions. One could argue, with significant evidence, that the smart play for police unions would be to come to some accommodation with protesters’ concerns to avoid more draconian policies later on. Yet after meticulously…

Greg Satell

Co-Founder: ChangeOS | Bestselling Author, Keynote Speaker, Wharton Lecturer,@HBR Contributor, - Learn more at