How can Early Adopters drive change?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about innovation and the role of early adopters.  Survey after survey of exectutives describes “innovation” as a priorty for moving their business forward and providing value to their shareholders.  Yet instilling an innovative culture seems to be a difficult task.   A company is made of humans that will have some proclivity for (or against) accepting and embracing change. defines Early Adopter as:

In the diffusion of innovation theory, the minority group (comprising about 14 %) of population which, after innovators, is first to try new ideas, processes, goods and services. Early adopters generally rely on their own inuition and vision, choose carefully, and have above-average education level. For any new product to be succesful, it must attract innovators and early adopters, so thatits acceptance or ‘diffusion’ moves on to early majority, late majority and then on to laggards.


How can innovators and early adopters inspire change among their late majority and laggard peers?  How can they remove the obstacles to change (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and help others make transitions more smoothly?

Seen it done well?  I’d love to hear from you.

Photo credit Pixomar @


2 pings

    • Kristi on April 19, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    Hm. Seeing as I’m anywhere from a late adopter to a laggard, I probably have some useful feedback for you. Primarily, though, what slows my willingness to adopt a new technology is price.

    I would never remember this if my grandfather hadn’t been a laggard, but back in the 1980’s you used to have to pay extra for “touch-tone” service on your phone line. Grandpa would buy new phones, but they always had to have that switch that allowed them to dial-pulse as well as touch-tone, because he absolutely would NOT pay extra for an unnecessary service on his line. Eventually, of course, 97% of everyone had touch-tone and the phone company did away with the surcharge and Grandpa got to flip that switch on his phones from dial-pulse to touch-tone and everyone was happy. But I’m kind of like him. I’m willing to pay what I consider a fair price for a useful service, but no matter how great I think smartphones are, I can’t bring myself to double (or more) the cost of my current monthly cell phone service just so I can search for a restaurant nearby when I’m in a new neighborhood. (And the last thing I need in my life is an obsession like Angry Birds. 🙂

    So, the curmudgeon in me wants to tell early adopters: Hey! Stop paying so damn much for new technologies and services!

  1. Kristi,
    Thanks for the comments and for sharing the memory of your grandfather. You’re raising the question of perceived value. You don’t recognize relative value in mobile apps or better said, you don’t want to pay a premium for these services. I’m lucky to have a job that subsidizes my computing fetish. 🙂 But before that I actually had to pay for my own smartphones and service. I really wanted to understand what everyone was talking about regarding smartphones. Although it pained my value conscious shopper mentality to shell out $200 for a smart phone, I was so glad I made the investment. I was amazed by how much the device changed my approach to life. For example, I had to drive 500 miles one night to visit a sick relative. In the middle of the night traffic stopped on Jersey’s Garden State Parkway – at that hour there was no traffic news on the radio and worse, no Snooki was around to help me.
    I pulled out my Motorola Droid and was able to see that traffic was backed up for 10 miles. Now that didn’t make me any happier, but at least I KNEW what I was up against. Over the next 90 minutes traffic inched along and I could track my progress against the cause of all the traffic. With out my smartphone I would have puzzled and agonized over WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON and HOW LONG AM I GOING TO BE ON THE GSP?!?! With the GPS services on my phone I knew where I stood and that gave me comfort.
    So I didn’t mean for this to be a defense of early adopters, I’m still looking for what early adopters can do can foster adoption. Kristi says to be more cost sensitive. Or perhaps, provide a better perspective on the value. That would help laggards like Kristi and her Grandpa know what their getting for the extra $.

    thanks again Kristi

    Angry Birds

  1. […] been thinking about Early Adopters lately.  I think I’m an EA and reviewing the definition solidifies my thinking.  I am […]

    • The Sad and Complex Life of The Early Adopter on May 10, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers. So how do you qualify for the  “Early Adopter” club? 
    note: this comment came thru garbled, this is the best I could make of it?

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