Musselwhite and Ingram’s Change Style Indicator

Why are some individuals more receptive to change than others? Why do some team members leave a meeting about a company-wide change excited about what’s new, while others shake their heads and instantly list all the reasons it’s a bad idea? More importantly, what can you, as a leader, do to improve the perceptions and subsequently, the outcomes of change initiatives?

Similar to right- or left-handedness, individuals’ approach to change reflects aspects of their personality and neurological preferences. Chris Musselwhite and Robyn Ingram refer to this range of individual response to change as the continuum of change. Authors and creators of the Change Style Indicator, Musselwhite and Ingram have characterized individuals as falling into one of three key categories indicating an individual’s perception of change.

The continuum, shown below, runs from conserver to pragmatist to originator; each style having unique perceptions of the necessity and interest in implementing or participating in change. The conserver resists change because of the unknown. The pragmatist lies in the center of the continuum and changes when it is absolutely necessary. The originator lies at the other end of the spectrum from the conservative. Originators are completely comfortable with implementing change, and are of the “let’s try it out and see what happens” mindset.  Although varying significantly in their perceptions, each of these individuals bring valuable traits in both leadership and team member roles.


The conserver exhibits effectiveness by being steady, reliable and consistent.  Their cautious and deliberate nature is well utilized in the planning role of a change initiative. Preferring incremental change, they have the ability to implement change in a way that transitions the organization without causing significant disruptions in business.

The pragmatist facilitates, cooperates, and mediates, whereas the originator provides vision, energy, and novelty. For example, when leading a change initiative, pragmatists can often be valuable change leaders. Team-centered, the pragmatist views both sides and can often successfully operate as the mediator to identify acceptable common ground.  

The originators are well placed as the visionaries in change initiatives. Although implementation can be an afterthought for their change style, they are the big-idea people. Tapping in to their willingness to apply new ideas and future mobility for an organization can generate new ways of doing business that can streamline efficiencies and result in ROI for both employees and clients.

While each of these change styles are individually important to an organization’s success, when combined they generate a truly holistic approach to implementing change. Integrating the originators’ ideas with the conservers’ planning, led by the objective pragmatist can result in positive outcomes for change. The key when attempting to implement change is awareness of both the leaderships’ and team members’ change perceptions. Customizing your approach based on change styles can make the difference between success or failure of your change initiative. Therefore, plan accordingly.

For more information on effective change initiatives, contact us.

By Contributing Writer — Jessica Underwood, Senior Associate, Changeis, Inc. 

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