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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Are you an early adopter?

In 1962 Everett Rodgers developed a theory of how new ideas and technology become mainstream.  He coined the term “early adopter” to label individuals who quickly adapt to change.  With the rapid acceleration in change in our lives over the last 30 years brought on by the computer and the Internet many people have had trouble adjusting to a constantly changing world.  Many individuals are uncomfortable with having to change, re-learning and re-examining how they view the world.  They long for the “good ol’days” when everyone stopped learning when they left school and everyone liked things “just the way they were.”  They frequently stated their beliefs with “If God would have wanted us to…………” or “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

Rodgers laid out the process of change this way:

“Innovators are the first individuals to adopt an innovation. Innovators are willing to take risks, youngest in age, have the highest social class, have great financial lucidity, very social and have closest contact to scientific sources and interaction with other innovators. Risk tolerance has them adopting technologies which may ultimately fail. Financial resources help absorb these failures. (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 282)

Early Adopters is the second fastest category of individuals who adopt an innovation. These individuals have the highest degree of opinion leadership among the other adopter categories. Early adopters are typically younger in age, have a higher social status, have more financial lucidity, advanced education, and are more socially forward than late adopters. More discrete in adoption choices than innovators. Realize judicious choice of adoption will help them maintain central communication position (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 283).

Early Majority Individuals adopt an innovation after a varying degree of time. This time of adoption is significantly longer than the innovators and early adopters. Early Majority tend to be slower in the adoption process, have above average social status, contact with early adopters, and seldom hold positions of opinion leadership in a system (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 283)

Late Majority Individuals will adopt an innovation after the average member of the society. These individuals approach an innovation with a high degree of skepticism and after the majority of society has adopted the innovation. Late Majority are typically skeptical about an innovation, have below average social status, very little financial lucidity, in contact with others in late majority and early majority, very little opinion leadership.

Laggards Individuals are the last to adopt an innovation. Unlike some of the previous categories, individuals in this category show little to no opinion leadership. These individuals typically have an aversion to change-agents and tend to be advanced in age. Laggards typically tend to be focused on “traditions”, likely to have lowest social status, lowest financial fluidity, be oldest of all other adopters, in contact with only family and close friends, very little to no opinion leadership.”

This process applies to business as well as people.  We see this in terms of how the American car industry was caught off guard with the gas shortages and their inventories full of low mileage cars. Foreign competitors grew their market share as a result and Toyota overtook GM as the world’s leader in car sales.

Organizations can also fail to recognize new realities by operating as if the world will always work as if has.  The reality for organizations is to recognize change and move in directions that position themselves to take advantage of the new realities.  The hockey player Wayne Gretzky best sums this up.  Wayne was so much better than the other professional hockey players that he was frequently asked why he was so much better.  His answer is just as valid for business and organizations as it is for hockey players.  Gretsky said “ Most hockey skaters react to where the puck is ---I determine where the puck is going and move to position myself so that the puck comes to me.”  Of course his skill was to know where the puck is going.  Just like the “early adopters.”

The adoption of new ideas is even geographical in our country.  It has been noted that new ideas and products start on the West Coast and then go to the East Coast and then to the Midwest. I noticed this years ago when I was in the Midwest and went out to Rollerblade and noticed people stopping to watch me.  Then I realized that they had never seen roller blades before. What had become common in California and the East Coast had not yet hit the Chicago area.

I want to repost a video that I posted late on yesterday’s blog on how social media has changed our world and I wanted everyone to get a chance to see it today also.


Anne said...

And we've been doing this dance forever, too. Socrates was unhappy about the invention of the alphabet, and he warned the inventors "this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your discipline not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality."

duanestclair said...

Some bad predictions on new ideas

Jason Reddish said...

I'm late majority, though I think Rodger's 1962 notions of social status and financial liquidity are now outdated, though it is true that I am too late for opinion leadership. Nearly 50 years later, an early adopter not only jumps on a type of innovation, but also a brand and model. No one is exclusively first with any innovation now, so it behooves a smart consumer to wait for generation two and for all brands to have a crack at it. Sure, the iPad might be the best tablet to emerge, but the iPad 2 is already better than the iPad 1 and another brand might soon best it. If not, I have lost nothing by waiting and do not run the risk of spending a few hundred dollars multiple times.