Why everyone needs to consider becoming an early adopter (or at least in the “early majority”)

Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0f/Diffusionofideas.PNG

As I mentioned also in a previous post (‘Thoughts on the accelerating evolution of business models’), the world seems to be changing fast (and accelerating in the pace of change). I believe this could require a change in how Everett M. Rogers’ “Diffusion of innovations” should be perceived (he was the creator of the concepts set out in the chart above).

In particular, due to the pace of change, I consider that it is today even more important to be on the left side of the curve, than on the right, and as such, instead of a ‘normal distribution‘, the distribution should be skewed to the left (an example, hypothetical chart for this follows below).

Background

Most people are aware of the terms “early adopter” and “laggard” (marketing terms to describe different stages of take-up of new products/services by a possible customer base/population). They, along with other similarly defined customer groups were thought up by Everett M. Rogers, as part of a piece “Diffusion of innovations“.

They are shown with a normal distribution, as shown above, reflecting the differing relative sizes of the groups (most people are somewhere in the middle, after the early adopters, but not wanting to be too far behind, before being laggards). Valuebasedmanagement.net also has a good overview, here. Dr Kevin Lim, on his blog ‘theory.isthereason’, also wrote an interest post, here.

In the past it was generally considered acceptable that such a distribution described by Everett existed; in fact, it was even necessary, to have some more conservative, pessimistic people, to keep a reign on those heading out in different directions to new creative pastures.

This argument might not change, but it seems to be that, given the (at least current, and in my view accelerating, and likely permanent) faster speed of change, being a laggard today, more than ever before, is a somewhat dangerous position to be in – disconnected, unaware, naïve, increasing ignorance, etc.

Innovation a buzzword, and in danger of becoming misrepresented/watered down – innovation isn’t just a nod to incremental change / improvement (but of course, includes that), but innovation means employing creative means to shake up an come up with new ideas, possibly unconnected, or distant from the current product/service/process, etc.

So what do we need to do?

In my view, we need to ‘disrupt ourselves’ and have:

  1. a more broadly adopted increasing willingness to put a toe in the water and try new ideas,
  2. acceptance of the need for “trial and error” (especially, and acceptance of the “… and error” part) – not all new ideas will work – that’s ok, but …
  3. increasing willingness to give new ideas a second chance, but also quick rejection of successive failed attempts, and
  4. an understanding that the new thing, quickly becomes the current thing, and that it might also soon be improved upon, and replaced by the next new thing (and so on).

Conclusions

It is important to note also, moving the distribution of take up of innovations towards earlier adoption, does not necessarily mean increasing ‘economic consumption’ (for some it will, however for many, it is rather a change in their consumption, from traditional goods to having a more open attitude to trying new alternatives and new ideas.

While it may feel like I am proposing an increase in risk (reduction in risk adversity) for those who are usually late majority and laggards, I’m rather highlighting that the world has changed, and it is now riskier to be a laggard (and so the risk averse option would now be to adopt earlier).

I’m actually not necessarily proposing that we go down this route or trying to push us down this route (although I do broadly support it), but rather note that change is happening more quickly anyway, whether we like it or not.

Therefore, we (as a population, both individuals/consumers, and businesses) simply need to be better prepared to keep up with it, and not feel uncertain, left out, or confused by new developments, and thereby avoid discomfort (and maximize satisfaction from participation).

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One Response

  1. Great TED talk by Simon Sinek (September 2009), on “How great leaders inspire action”, including an interesting discussion on The Law of Diffusion of Innovation (from 11 minutes 8 seconds, but I recommend to watch the whole video):

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