When was the last time you had to accommodate a major change in your life? Perhaps you switched jobs or your partner relocated. You may have decided to add children to your family, or perhaps one of your children is moving out soon. Regardless of the type of change headed your way, psychologists have been examining how each of us reacts for many years.
One of the oldest theories to explain this was E.M. Roger’s Diffusion of Innovation. It was initially developed to explain how a product would spread through the population but has since been adopted as a sound interpretation of how many people approach all sorts of change, especially technological change. Let’s take a closer look.
There are five categories in the theory that characterize how we approach change. The characteristics of each category have a direct impact on how quickly we adopt technological change. Considering that so much of our current change has a technological element included, this model applies to many aspects of life. This could also explain why people who don’t adapt to technological changes well are feeling so left behind today, but let’s discuss that later.
The first category from left to right are the technology enthusiasts. It’s also the smallest group, as only 2.5% of the population who fit this profile. They are the first to adopt a technological change. This elite group requires the smallest amount of assurances and are willing to take the largest amount of risk. They want to be agents of change and growth, and frequently understand the early financial and social implications of technology. This drives them to stay on the cutting edge of many technological advances.
The second group consists of the visionaries, who are often viewed as opinion leaders by many other people. They pride themselves on spotting trends and being one of the first to get on board. These people have an adventurous spirit and serve as role models within their company or social structure. They look for ways to push boundaries and change the culture. Another very important aspect of this group is they are not cost-sensitive. In other words, they think big and price is generally not an obstacle for them. This group is an excellent source of early performance data for technology companies.
The first of the two largest groups in the model consists of the pragmatists. These people have intentional networks of people and interact with them for deliberate reasons. Evolutionary advancements are acceptable when they yield clear benefits in efficiency or time savings. As opposed to the earlier groups, they do require good service and performance to successfully adopt new technology. They will often adopt a personal reference from someone they trust, and staying within a budget will also be a consideration. Price does matter to this group.
The other largest group consists of the conservatives. This group is very responsive to peer pressure and will adopt only the kinds of technology that they deem to be economically necessary. They are cautious and skeptical of many of the assertions made and improvements proposed. Technologically-shy is a term often used to refer to this group, but they do recognize the need to keep up, albeit late. They often have a single trusted advisor who they go to for help and advice on these matters.
The final group consists of quintessential skeptics. They are secluded from many of today’s opinion leaders in large part because of technological isolation and prefer to frequently refer to the way things used to be with a wistful “days gone by” look in their eyes. Laggards are innately skeptical of all kinds of advancement, and they have a selective memory, which allows them to focus on the good aspects of the past without including the negative.
I touch on these concepts several times in my upcoming book, Poised for Innovation. I recommend that you take some time to assess which category you fall into. If you feel like you’re behind the curve or getting left behind by the speed of advancement, consider doing something constructive to change that. Awareness is the first step to make concrete changes.