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"Thursday Thinking"

©2019 by Weaving Futures. 

  • Carolyn Stuart

The Adoption Curve is your friend

Over the last couple of weeks we have been looking at how to identify ideas worth pursuing, and managing workloads by having a Replacement Theory. This week our focus is on the different types of people within organisation and how to use these differences, to advantage, when implementing new initiatives.

Below is a diagram of the Adoption Curve from Geoffrey Moore’s book Crossing the Chasm. Even though the book was written as a guide to bringing new technology products to market, it contains important lessons and principles for anyone wanting to introduce new initiatives.

Moore (2014) identifies five different types of people:

Innovators/Early Adopters (approx 15% of people)

  • Love new ideas and figuring out how they will work in their context

  • Visionaries - find it easy to imagine what might be

Early Majority (approx 35% of people)

  • Driven by a strong sense of practicality

  • Values driven

  • Evolution not revolution

Late Majority (approx 35% of people)

  • Conservatives

  • Service orientated

  • Believe more in tradition than progress

Laggards (approx 15% of people)

  • Skeptics

  • Quick to point out differences between hype and reality

The three important things to understand about the Adoption Curve are:

  1. which group you mostly identify with;

  2. how to make the most of where other people sit on the Adoption Curve when introducing new initiatives, and;

  3. how your place on the Adoption Curve impacts your work.

1. Which group do you mostly identify with?

If you are an innovator or early adopter, then you’ll be energised by new ideas and love figuring out how to make them work in your context. You have an important role in keeping the momentum going within your sphere of influence. Unfortunately you are easily bored by the status quo which can make you quite exhausting to work with, because no sooner have you nailed one idea then you are onto your next one.

If you are an early majority you are not interested in new ideas unless someone can show you exactly how they fit in with what you are doing. (It will be an early adopter who will show you this). However, once you understand the benefits of a new idea and how it works in practice, you will be relentless in making the new idea work.

If you are a late majority then you get interested in a new idea once the majority of people are invested in it. You have an important role in keeping an organisation grounded and focussed on its key purposes, and in ensuring the past is honoured as an important part of the present.

If you are a laggard then the chances are you are disillusioned by what you do and only comply with new ideas if directed to. The value you bring to an organisation is that you keep people honest.

2. How to make the most of where other people sit on the Adoption Curve when introducing new initiatives

When an idea is brand new give it to the innovators/early adopters and get them to figure out how to make this initiative work within your context. Once they have figured this out and can demonstrate how it works it is time to bring on the Early Majority who will take the initiative and make it business as usual. At this point you should have at least half your organisation on board with the initiative, so the next step is to empower the Early Majority to work with the Late Majority. Laggards will probably need a directive from a senior leader to come on board.

3. How your place on the Adoption Curve impacts your work (especially if you are a leader!)

If you are an innovator/early adopter don’t expect everyone to be excited by your latest shiny idea. Identify the other innovators/early adopters on your team and work with them to bring the idea to life for your organisation.

If you are an Early Majority then recognise you need to see something in action before understanding how it will fit in with your context. Empower the innovators/early adopters to go out and seek new ideas and then go and see for yourself how they work in practice so you are comfortable with new ideas before introducing them.

If you are a Late Majority, ensure that you have early majority colleagues within your trusted network, and enlist their help and experience to stay fresh professionally, and to support you to keep bringing new ideas into your context.

The chasm which Moore (2014) refers to in his book is jumping the gap between a new idea and it becoming 'business as usual' or 'the way we do things around here'. The leap is so much easier if you empower the right ‘type’ of person at the right time.

The problem with being human is that we naturally assume that everyone else is like us. Unfortunately they are not, so it is important to understand where you sit on the Adoption Curve and then to ensure that everyone around you is empowered to operate within their space on the Adoption Curve.

I am an innovator/early adopter and I now understand why others I have worked with, were not nearly as enthusiastic about shiny new ideas as I was!!! I also understand how important each type of person is to keep an organisation balanced and healthy.

To all the early and late majority people who have been part of teams that I have led, thank you for your patience, and for those times when you bravely provided a much-needed handbrake to my ideas. For those, who like me, are innovators/early adopters thank you for helping bring the ideas to life and making everyone’s life more interesting.

Ref: Moore, G. (2014). Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and selling disruptive products to mainstream customers. (Third Edition). New York: HarperCollins