Fighting fire with fire: action research on the inoculation technique to limit the resistances related to an IT project


  • Peter Bou Saba IAE, Université de Montpellier
  • Régis MEISSONIER IAE School of Management Montpellier University, France


inoculation, project, IT, resistance, conflict, propagation


Academic literature offers a wide range of change management methods to identify and reduce resistance related to IT projects. While the inoculation method seduced both researchers and practitioners in psychology or sociology, it has been little experienced in information systems. This change management technique postulates that in the same way individuals can be vaccinated with a virus, they can also protect themselves from negative influences by exposing them to the arguments put forward by the detractors of the project. The refutation, for this purpose, consists into providing arguments to the individual to help them support their attitude and, to be able, to reject other counter-arguments. This research discloses the results of a research-action carried out over 3 years in a consulting company whom the implementation of a decision support system was associated with strong resistance behaviors. We experienced the inoculation technique to limit the resistance propagation. The results tend to confirm the contribution of this method to the preservation of the positive attitudes of the partisans while relativizing the expected "boomerang" effect on the detractors of the project.

Author Biography

Peter Bou Saba, IAE, Université de Montpellier

Professeur des Universités


Ajzen I. (1989), “Attitude structure and behavior”, in Pratkanis, A.R., Breckler, S.J. and Greenwald, A.G. (Eds.), Attitude Structure and Function, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp. 241–274.

Akkermans H.A. & van Helden K. (2002), “Vicious and virtuous cycles in ERP implementation: a case study of interrelations between critical success factors”, European Journal of Information Systems, vol. 11, n°1, pp. 35–46.

Alavi M.,Wheeler B.C. & Valacich J.S. (1995), “Using IT to Reengineer Business Education: an Exploratory Investigation of Collaborative Telelearning”, MIS Quarterly, vol. 19, n°3, pp. 293–312.

Allard-Poesi F. & Perret V. (2003), “La Recherche-Action”, in Giordano, Y. (Ed.), Conduire Un Projet de Recherche, Une Perspective Qualitative, EMS, pp. 85–132.

Alvarez R. (2008), “Examining technology, structure and identity during an Enterprise System implementation”, Information Systems Journal, vol. 18, n°2, pp. 203–224.

Avenier M.-J. & Thomas C. (2015), “Finding one’s way around various methods and guidelines for doing rigorous qualitative research: A comparison of four epistemological frameworks”, Systèmes d’Information et Management, vol. 20, n°1, pp. 61–98.

Avison D. (2012), “From espoused values to action: A commentary on ‘are we making a better world with ICTs’?”, Journal of Information Technology, vol. 27, n°2, pp. 104–105.

Barki H. & Hartwick J. (2001), “Interpersonal Conflict and its Management in Information System Development”, MIS Quarterley, vol. 25, n°2, pp. 195–228.

Barsade S.G. (2002), “The Ripple Effect: Emotional Contagion and Its Influence on Group Behavior.”, Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 47, n°4, pp. 644–675.

Baskerville R. & Myers M.D. (2004), “Special Issue on Action Research in Information Systems: Making IS Research Relevant to Practice Foreword”, MIS Quarterly, vol. 28, n°3, pp. 329–335.

Baskerville R.L. (1999), “Investigating information systems with action research”, Communications of AIS, vol. 2, n°3, p. 4.

Baskerville R.L. & Wood-Harper A.T. (1996), “A critical perspective on action research as a method for information systems research”, Journal of Information Technology, vol. 11, n°3, pp. 235–246.

Beaudry A. & Pinsonneault A. (2010), “The other side of acceptance: studying the direct and indirect effects of emotions on information technology use.”, MIS Quarterly, vol. 34, n°4, pp. 689-A3.

Benbasat I.,Goldstein D.K. & Mead M. (1987), “The Case Research Strategy in Studies of Information Systems.”, MIS Quarterly, vol. 11, n°3, pp. 369–386.

Benbasat I. & Zmud R.W. (1999), “Empirical Research in Information Systems: The Practice of Relevance”, MIS Quarterly, vol. 23, n°1, pp. 3–16.

Bikhchandani S.,Hirshleifer D. & Welch I. (1992), “A Theory of Fads, Fashion, Custom, and Cultural Change as Informational Cascades”, Journal of Political Economy, vol. 100, n°5, pp. 992–1026.

Boje D.M. (1991), “The Storytelling Organization: A Study of Story Performance in an Office- Supply Firm”, Administrative Science Quarterly, Sage Publications, Inc.Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University, vol. 36, n°1, p. 106.

Chiasson M.,Germonprez M. & Mathiassen L. (2009), “Pluralist action research: A review of the information systems literature”, Information Systems Journal, vol. 19, n°1, pp. 31–54.

Cialdini R.B. & Goldstein N.J. (2004), “Social Influence: Compliance and Conformity”, Annual Review of Psychology, vol. 55, n°1, pp. 591–621.

Clark P.A. (1972), Action research and organization change, Harper Row, London.

Cohen W.M. & Levinthal D.A. (1990), “Absorptive Capacity: A New Perspective on Learning and Innovation.”, Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 35, n°1, pp. 128–152.

Colman A. (2003), “Group think: bandwagon effect”, Oxford Dictionary of Psychology, n°77.

Compton J. & Pfau M. (2004), “Use of inoculation to foster resistance to credit card marketing targeting college students”, Journal of Applied Communication Research, Taylor & Francis , vol. 32, n°4, pp. 343–364.

Compton J. & Pfau M. (2009), “Spreading Inoculation: Inoculation, Resistance to Influence, and Word-of-Mouth Communication”, Communication Theory, Oxford University Press, vol. 19, n°1, pp. 9–28.

Davenport T.H. (1998), “Putting the Enterprise into the Enterprise System”, Harvard Business Review, vol. 76, n°4, pp. 121–131.

Davison R.M.,Martinsons M.G. & Kock N. (2004), “Principles of canonical action research.”, Information Systems Journal, vol. 14, n°1, pp. 65–86.

Denzin N. & Lincoln Y. (2005), “The discipline and practice of qualitative research”, in Denzin, N. and Lincoln, Y. (Eds.), The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, Sage, Thousand Oaks, pp. 1–32.

DiMaggio P.J. & Powell W.W. (1983), “The iron cage revisited: institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields”, American Sociological Review, vol. 48, n°2, pp. 147–160.

Doolin B. (2002), “Enterprise Discourse, Professional Identity and the Organizational Control of Hospital Clinicians”, Organization Studies, vol. 23, n°4, pp. 369–390.

De Dreu C.K.W. & Weingart L.R. (2003), “Task versus relationship conflict, team performance, and team member satisfaction: A meta-analysis.”, Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 88, n°4, pp. 741–749.

Ewusi-Mensan K.C.K. (1997), “Critical Issues in abandoned Information Systems Developments Projects.”, Communications of the ACM, vol. 40, n°9, pp. 74–80.

Fagnot I. & Stanton J. (2015), “Enhancing Retention of Future Information Professionals Using Attitude Inoculation”, Systèmes d’Information et Management, vol. 20, n°2, pp. 9–36.

Festinger L. (1957), A theory of cognitive dissonance, Evanston, IL: Row, Peterson.

Fishbein M. & Ajzen I. (1975), Belief, attitude, intention and behavior: an introduction to theory and research, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Reading, MA.

Ford J.D.,Ford L.W.,D’Amelio A. & D’Amelio A. (2008), “Resistance to Change: The Rest of the Story”, Academy of Management Review, vol. 33, n°2, pp. 362–377.

Hong K.-K. & Kim Y.-G. (2002), “The critical success factors for ERP implementation: an organizational fit perspective”, Information & Management, vol. 40, n°1, pp. 25–40.

Huckfeldt R. & Sprague J. (1995), Citizens, politics, and social communication: information and influence in an election campaign, American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, New York.

Jehn K.,Rispens S.,Jonsen K. & Greer L. (2013), “Conflict contagion: a temporal perspective on the development of conflict within teams”, International Journal of Conflict Management, vol. 24, n°4, pp. 352–373.

Jehn K.A.,Northcraft G.,Gruenfeld D.,Chatman J.,Neale M.,Weigelt K.,Mannix E.A.,et al. (2001), “22The Dynamic Nature of Conflict:A Longitudinal Study of Intragroup Conflict and Group Performance”, Academy of Management Journal, vol. 44, n°2, pp. 238–251.

Kankanhalli A.,Tan B.C.Y.Y.,Kwok-Kee W.E.I. & Wei K.-K. (2007), “Conflict and Performance in Global Virtual Teams”, Journal of Management Information Systems, vol. 23, n°3, pp. 237–274.

Katz E. & Lazarsfeld P. (1955), Personal influence, Free Press, New York.

Klein H.K. & Myers M.D. (1999), “A Set of Principles for Conducting and Evaluating Interpretive Field Studies in Information Systems”, MIS Quarterly, vol. 23, n°1, pp. 67–94.

Lamb R. & Davidson E. (2005), “Information and communication technology challenges to scientific professional identity”, Information Society, vol. 21, n°1, pp. 1–24.

LaPiere R.T. (1934), “Attitudes vs Actions”, Social Forces, Social forces, vol. 13, n°2, pp. 230–237.

Lapointe L. & Beaudry A. (2014), “Identifying IT User Mindsets: Acceptance, Resistance and Ambivalence”, 2014 47th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, IEEE, pp. 4619–4628.

Lapointe L. & Rivard S. (2005), “A Multilevel Model of Resistance to Information Technology”, MIS Quarterly, vol. 29, n°3, pp. 461–491.

Laumer S.,Maier C.,Eckhardt A. & Weitzel T. (2016), “User Personality and Resistance to Mandatory Information Systems in Organizations: A Theoretical Model and Empirical Test of Dispositional Resistance to Change”, Journal of Information Technology, Palgrave Macmillan UK, vol. 31, n°1, pp. 67–82.

Leclercq-Vandelannoitte A. (2014), “Interrelationships of identity and technology in IT assimilation”, European Journal of Information Systems, vol. 23, n°1, pp. 51–68.

Lerner J.S. & Keltner D. (2000), “Beyond valence: Toward a model of emotion-specific influences on judgement and choice”, Cognition & Emotion, vol. 14, n°4, pp. 473–493.

Lewin K. (1952), “Group decision and social change”, in Swanson, G.E., Newcombe, T.M. and Hartley, E.L. (Eds.), Reading in Social Psychology, Holt, New York, pp. 459–473.

Li J. & Hambrick D.C. (2005), “Factional Groups: A New Vantage on Demographic Faultlines, Conflict, and Disintegration in Work Teams”, Academy of Management Journal, vol. 48, n°5, pp. 794–813.

Lindgren R.,Henfridsson O. & Schultze U. (2004), “Design Principles for Competence Management Systems: A Synthesis of an Action Research Study1”, MIS Quarterly, vol. 28, n°3, pp. 435–472.

Lumsdaine A.A. & Janis I.L. (1953), “Resistance to ‘Counterpropaganda’ Produced by One-Sided and Two-Sided ‘Propaganda’ Presentations”, Public Opinion Quarterly, Oxford University Press, vol. 17, n°3, p. 311.

Lyytinen K.,Mathiassen L. & Ropponen J. (1998), “Attention Shaping and Software Risk--A Categorical Analysis of Four Classical Risk Management Approaches”, Information Systems Research, vol. 9, n°3, pp. 233–255.

March J.G.,Weil T. & Thoenig J.-C. (2003), Le leadership dans les organisations, Les Presses de l’École des Mines.

Markus M.L.,Axline S.,Petrie D. & Tanis C. (2000), “Learning from adopters’ experiences with ERP: Problems encountered and success achieved”, Journal of Information Technology, vol. 15, n°4, pp. 245–265.

Markus M.L.,Petrie D. & Axline S. (2000), “Bucking the Trends: What the Future May Hold for ERP Packages”, Information Systems Frontiers, Kluwer Academic Publishers, vol. 2, n°2, pp. 181–193.

McCombs M.E. & Shaw D.L. (1972), “The Agenda-Setting Function of Mass Media”, The Public Opinion Quarterly, Oxford University PressAmerican Association for Public Opinion Research.

McGuire W.J. (1964), “Some Contemporary Approaches”, Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Academic Press, vol. 1, pp. 191–229.

McGuire W.J. (1966), “The current status of cognitive consistency theories”, in Feldman, S. (Ed.), Cognitive Consistency: Motivational Antecedents and Behavioral Consequents, Academic Press, pp. 2–38.

McGuire W.J. & Papageorgis D. (1961), “The relative efficacy of various types of prior belief-defense in producing immunity against persuasion.”, The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, vol. 62, n°2, pp. 327–337.

McMahon R.,Barton E. & Piot M. (1992), On being in charge, Broché.

Meissonier R. & Houzé E. (2010), “Toward an ‘IT Conflict-Resistance Theory’: Action Research during IT Pre-Implementation”, European Journal of Information Systems, vol. 15, n°5, pp. 540–561.

Miles M.B. & Huberman A.M. (1984), Qualitative data analysis: a sourcebook of new methods, Sage, Beverly Hils, USA.

Mumford E. (2001), “Advice for an action researcher”, Information Technology & People, vol. 14, n°1, pp. 12–27.

Nabi R.L. (2003), “‘Feeling’; Resistance: Exploring the Role of Emotionally Evocative Visuals in Inducing Inoculation”, Media Psychology, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., vol. 5, n°2, pp. 199–223.

van Offenbeek M.,Boonstra A. & Seo D. (2012), “Towards integrating acceptance and resistance research: evidence from a telecare case study”, European Journal of Information Systems, Nature Publishing Group, vol. 22, n°4, pp. 1–21.

Orlikowski W.J. & Baroudi J.J. (1991), “Studying Information Technology in Organizations: Research Approaches and Assumptions.”, Information Systems Research, vol. 2, n°1, pp. 1–28.

Osgood C.E.,Suci G.J. & Tannebaum H. (1957), The measurement of meaning, University of Illinois Press.

Pare G. (2004), “Investigating Information Systems with Positivist Case Study Research.”, Communications of AIS, vol. 2004, n°13, pp. 233–264.

Patton M. (1990), “Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods”, Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods, pp. 169–186.

Petty R.E. & Krosnick J.A. (1995), Attitude strength: antecedents and consequences, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale.

Pfau M. (1992), “The potential of inoculation in promoting resistance to the effectiveness of comparative advertising messages”, Communication Quarterly, Taylor & Francis Group , vol. 40, n°1, pp. 26–44.

Pfau M. & Burgoon M. (1988), “Inoculation in Political Campaign Communication”, Human Communication Research, available at:

Pfau M.,Tusing K.J.,Koerner A.F.,Leze W.,Godbold L.C.,Penaloza L.J.,Shu-Huei V.,et al. (1997), “Enriching the Inoculation Construct The Role of Critical Components in the Process of Resistance”, Human Communication Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 24, n°2, pp. 187–215.

Phillips K.W. & Loyd D.L. (2006), “When surface and deep-level diversity collide: The effects on dissenting group members”, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, vol. 99, n°2, pp. 143–160.

Rosenberg M.J. & Hovland C.I. (1960), “Cognitive, affective, and behavioral components of attitudes”, in Rosenberg, M.J. (Ed.), Attitude Organization and Change: An Analysis of Consistency among Attitude Components, Yale University Press, New Haven.

Rowe F. (1999), “Cohérence, intégration informationnelle et changement : esquisse d’un programme de recherche à partir des Progiciels Intégrés de Gestion”, Système d’Information et Management, vol. 4, n°4, pp. 3–20.

Schmidt R.,Lyytinen K.,Keil M. & Cule P. (2001), “Identifying Software Project Risks: An International Delphi Study.”, Journal of Management Information Systems, vol. 17, n°4, pp. 5–36.

Selander L. & Henfridsson O. (2012), “Cynicism as user resistance in IT implementation”, Information Systems Journal, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd (10.1111), vol. 22, n°4, pp. 289–312.

Strauss A.L. & Corbin J.M. (1998), Basics of qualitative research : techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory, Sage Publications.

Susman G.I. & Evered R.D. (1978), “An Assessment of the Scientific Merits of Action Research”, Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 23, n°4, pp. 582–603.

Volkoff O.,Elmes M.B. & Strong D.M. (2004), “Enterprise systems, knowledge transfer and power users”, Journal of Strategic Information Systems, vol. 13, n°4 SPEC. ISS., pp. 279–304.

Wei H.-L.,Wang E.T.G.,Ju P.-H.,Hsiao-Lan W.,Wang E.T.G. & Pei-Hung J. (2005), “Understanding misalignment and cascading change of ERP implementation: a stage view of process analysis”, European Journal of Information Systems, vol. 14, n°4, pp. 324–334.

Wheeler L. (1966), “Toward a theory of behavioral contagion.”, Psychological Review, vol. 73, n°2, pp. 179–192.

De Wit F.R.C.,Greer L.L. & Jehn K.A. (2012), “The paradox of intragroup conflict: a meta-analysis.”, The Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 97, n°2, pp. 360–390.

Wood M.L.M. (2007), “Rethinking the Inoculation Analogy: Effects on Subjects With Differing Preexisting Attitudes”, Human Communication Research, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd (10.1111), vol. 33, n°3, pp. 357–378.



How to Cite

Bou Saba, P., & MEISSONIER, R. (2020). Fighting fire with fire: action research on the inoculation technique to limit the resistances related to an IT project. Systèmes d’Information Et Management (French Journal of Management Information Systems), 25(3), 87–126. Retrieved from



Teaching case studies and experiences