Thanks to my dear friends Laura, Emily, George, and Ann, I think I’m starting to see how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. I’d also like to give thanks friends who contributed to Facebook group discussions about yesterday’s post … but if you’re not a member of those groups, you may not be able to see their contributions.
Here’s the key insight – and I guess it was right there in front of me in the information about diffusion of innovations! Each of the five potential groups of adopters (or non-adopters) of an innovation “speaks a different language” and is motivated by a different set of concerns; that’s why there are different groups. So, to help an innovation “cross the chasm” from one group to another, it’s important to understand how each group feels about relative advantage, compatibility, complexity/simplicity, trialability, and observability.
Obviously the best way to find out is to ask. The exact pattern of concerns will be different for each person, of course.
But in general, it seems that innovators and early adopters are more concerned with relative advantage and compatibility. If a “new thing” seems to work better than the “old thing,” innovators have probably already gone out and started trying it. Early adopters are also concerned with compatibility; they’ll jump on board if the “new thing” works better than the “old thing” and is a good fit with the way they like to operate, but they’ll resist if the “new thing” requires too much of a change in their work style. The early majority is also concerned with complexity. Yes, it’s great that the “new thing” works better than the “old thing,” and yes, it’s wonderful that it doesn’t require changing everything about what you do. But what if it breaks? Or what if it stops being available? Early majority members want answers to questions like these before they’re willing to try the new thing … and trialability is certainly key for them. If the “new thing” doesn’t work reliably, how easy will it be to go back to the old, reliable, tried-and-true methods?
As for the late majority and the laggards, it’s probably obvious what they want and need. It’s also irrelevant if the early majority doesn’t embrace the innovation. And, so often, the early majority doesn’t … because the innovators and early adopters don’t realize that the early majority is motivated by a whole different set of core values. That’s the “chasm” that Geoffrey Moore refers to.
Emily reminded me of another great model, from Peter Gloor’s recent book Coolfarming. It’s all about the transition from innovators (which Gloor calls a Collaborative Innovation Network) to early adopters (Collaborative Learning Network) to early majority (Collaborative Interest Network).
So what are the lessons for us innovators and early adopters in the field of education?
First, we need to be sensitive to our audience. Early majority members already have a sense that “it” is better than “the old thing.” But they want to know that “it” will work and, if it doesn’t, that “it” can be abandoned without creating a disaster. Talking endlessly about how “it” is better, or about how “it” isn’t that hard to do, won’t win over the early majority.
So when innovators and early adopters do speak, we need to make sure to address the audience’s concerns, not our concerns. And we need to make sure that our message is getting across.
Where do you see yourself on the spectrum from innovator to laggard? And what do you think of this notion of different primary motivators for each group? More to the point, how will this change the ways you interact with people over the next few days?
quid respondētis, amīcī?