Fear uncertainty and doubt

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Creating fear, uncertainty and doubt over a change in order to slow it down.

From chapter 11 in the book:

Often used to slow evolution by exploiting inertia to change within customers and forcing new entrants to divert energy away from the components and into countering the accusations.[1]

Key Elements

Playing on a buyer’s lack of expertise to accept vague concerns (or specific, but unprovable or false risks) as a reason not to change. May play into buyers existing incentives by providing reasons to keep things the way they are (which is in the buyers’ comfort zone).


Requires a current alternative with some inertia.


In earlier generations, we heard (and probably said) “No one ever got fired for buying IBM”. This is a subtle (or not) warning that if you buy the newer thing, and it doesn’t go well, you might get fired. Notice that there is no specific problem identified with the new solution - the implication is that unless you can prove that nothing could possibly go wrong with the new solution, you are risking your job.

In slightly newer generations, we heard a lot of concern over cloud computing, compared to on-premises data centers. Many concerns had to do with “security” or “lock-in”, both of which are non-specific, but imply that cloud will turn out to be a bad choice, and when it does, you were warned.

Global warming suffers from this same strategic attack, with much of the arguments against it being of the form “scientists aren’t always right”, “not all scientists agree”, and “it seems clod right now”. This definitely contains the factor of inertia, where some parties are motivated to resist because reacting to a global warming threat will cost money or disrupt their business.

Counter Plays


See Also

Gameplay Patterns