The Idea / Product / Service / Adoption Lifecycle

No idea, product, or service is everywhere all at once. It has to spread and spreading takes some amount of time. Most people talk about what they’re going to do to put whatever they’re offering out there. The best of the best add who, how, why, and when will adopt it and build their strategy around those profiles.

In what may be one of my all-time favorite (not so) secret weapons, behold – the brilliant insight of how things are adopted within a population:

Wikipedia, “Technology Adoption Lifecycle,”

The original idea came from a group of agricultural researchers in the 1950s. They said you could break adoptees of a new farming practice down into demographic and psychographic profiles. These five profiles are (with my own explanations added):

Innovators: “I’ll tinker with the beta of your new-new thing and provide feedback!”

Early Adopters: “This new-new thing is really cool, it changes how I used to do this other thing. Neat!”

Early Majority: “Oh, we do it this way now? Cool. I’ll give it a shot.”

Late Majority: “Ok, I guess I’ll learn it if you’re going to make me. Ugh.”

Laggards: “Get off my lawn whipper snapper! The old way works, and if it ain’t broke…”

Whatever idea we want to spread, whatever practice we want to instill, whatever product we want to sell, it will have to be adopted by a diverse population of each of these 5 profiles. We should expect it – and if we really want to be ninjas, we should target our roll-out around them.

Advanced case note: With some ideas (specifically tech products and services), as Jefferey Moore explains in Crossing the Chasm, there’s often a gap between the first two groups and the rest. Note my very intentional punctuations in the explanations on the list. There’s an excitement factor that wears off fast we want to be prepared for it. For some ideas, this can be a very difficult chasm to cross. It requires a change in strategy or a bridge to be built. See Moore’s book for more (it’s still delightfully relevant).

Bottom line: The adoption lifecycle graph applies to all sorts of situations we’ll face. It’s a key reference for setting strategy and expectations. I can say from experience, getting familiar with it and noting where it applies is a competitive advantage too. The better we understand the psychographic and demographic profiles of the people we work with and for, as well as how the population they are a part of is segmented, the better we can serve them.

Footnote: mass adoption doesn’t need to be the goal. If success only requires a piece of a market or population, segment that first and then use the profiling concept to break down who, how, why, and when they’ll adopt what you’re offering.

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