Barriers to change and identity work in the Swampy Lowland

Nic Beech, Ingrid Kajzer-Mitchell, Cliff Oswick, Mike Saren

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    Our aim is to examine intractability in relation to processes of change. Drawing upon data gathered from workshops, documentary sources and follow-up interviews, we identify an apparent contradiction between accounts of the self as change-oriented and subsequent inaction. We argue that the dominant metaphor typically used to explain such contradictions - barriers to change - provides an inadequate characterization of change inactivity. We present an alternative way of thinking about change in which the issue of self-identity is central. In particular, we argue that the very way that expressly change-oriented participants protected their self-identity was (ironically) itself an impediment to change. Finally, we offer an alternative to the barrier metaphor - the swampy lowland - as a way of conceptualizing apparent intractability in change-oriented situations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)289-304
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of Change Management
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011


    • Barriers
    • Change practice
    • Identity
    • Metaphor

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Strategy and Management


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