I was talking to my friend Carey about my new Treo 650 (which I am loving by the way). He told me that I didn't have any resistance to new gadgets that I'd like to have. I told him that I was an "early adopter" when it came to technology.
"What's an early adopter?" he asked.
I then began to explain the work of Everett M. Rogers (who coined the phrase "early adopter") to him. Everett M. Rogers, before passing away in 2004, was most recently a professor and chair of the Department of Communication and Journalism at the University of New Mexico. In his classic and landmark book entitled, Diffusion of Innovations, he breaks people's response to change into five categories. These groups are divided as follows:
The INNOVATORS - representing approximately 3% of the people
While this is the smallest group represented, these people are the ones who take an idea and run with it. They are risk-takers and adventurers who thrive in a change atmosphere. They are intelligent, quick learners who constantly look for new ways to do things better and more efficiently. They possess a strong, sharp intuition which allows them to accomplish new goals and reach new dreams. Hopefully, these are the type of people that you have in key leadership and staff positions.
The EARLY ADOPTERS - representing approximately 13% of the people
Early adopters are usually those who take an idea from an innovator and run with it. They are able to take these ideas and implement them in ways that allow the idea to flourish. This group is quick to run once they know which direction the organization needs to run in.
The EARLY MAJORITY - representing approximately 24% of the people
In implementing change, this group will be more deliberate than the previous two. They will gauge the opinion leaders within the organization and test the waters to see how effective it will be. They want to make the change, but want to see how it's being done somewhere else as well.
The LATER MAJORITY - representing approximately 44% of the people
This is by far the largest of the groups. These people want to see that everyone else is already doing it and they need specific, point by point instruction as to how to make the change. They don't want to be a part of the implementing and bringing about change and are simply content to follow and adopt the new practices that everyone else has now adopted.
The LAGGARDS - representing approximately 16% of the people
The laggards are determined not to adopt anything new.
As we consider changes that occur around us and within us, which group do we tend to belong to?
I admit that I'm an early adopter when it comes to technology, but I'm more of a later majority when the change centers around what I wear (I'm not necessarily up on the latest fashions :).
Understanding these various groupings has helped me better facilitate change within my organization. I am able to see that some people don't jump on board right away, while others are always excited about the next big idea. The key is knowing how to reach out to and work with each group throughout the change process.