Author Mark Grey said ‘A team is only as strong as its weakest link.’ The same can be said about technology adoption in companies.
Technology adoption is generally recognized as the measuring stick for competitiveness, but not all companies are clear as to where they stand on the technology adoption curve or what they can do to shift toward a technology adoption model that leans heavily to the left of the curve: innovation and early adoption.
Most organizations—and their people—fall into one of two categories: early majority, the first sizable segment of a population to adopt an innovative technology, or late majority, who will adopt a new technology only after the majority of the population has.
This mindset means most companies fall in the middle of the curve (68%). Meanwhile, the most technologically advanced—the innovators—find themselves on the far left on the curve (2%) followed by the early adopters (13.5%). Finally, the less advanced—the laggards—are at the opposite end of the curve to the far right (16%).
So, with Grey’s words in mind, it could be said that a company is only as innovative as its least innovative team members. Simply put: the laggards are the weak link of your company’s technology adoption model.
From an organizational culture perspective, companies often find themselves asking the age-old chicken or egg question: are we looking for technology to change our organizational culture and how to adopt that, or do we want to create a culture that embraces new technologies? The simple answer is both.
There is not a single formula or technology adoption definition that is one size fits all. In part, this is because companies and their people are rarely static. They tend to move back and forth along the curve. There will be some departments that are consistently more innovative, than others. But there will also be areas within different departments, where team members show a greater openness for early adoption or innovation. This is a layer of complexity that every organization needs to take into account when mapping their technology adoption lifecycle.
From an HR perspective, not only does an organization need to assess which team members are further to the left of the curve in terms of recognizing a new innovation and the benefits for their companies, but they also need to identify the individuals who will push for innovation and drive acceptance of a new innovation among the rest of the team members, especially the laggards and late adopters.
This means not only rewarding the innovators and early adopters for doing what comes more easily to them than the vast majority of people, but also creating an environment where laggards and late adopters are less afraid to take risks and feel safe to think bigger.
For HR managers, there are technology solutions that can effectively digitize employee interactions within the organization so they can identify those groups or individuals that stand out as innovators or early adopters. For example, Globant’s StarMeUp OS suite of apps, including StarMeUp and BetterMe, enables employees to recognize their peers and provide genuine feedback on their own performance through platforms that provide real-time data. Not only do these types of tools help managers identify who is outperforming their peers, but they can also be used to define incentive programs to foster greater employee participation and engagement among late adopters or laggards.
“Ultimately, the goal is to enable a cohesive organizational culture,” says Guibert Englebienne, CTO and co-founder of Globant.
At what stage of the technology adoption curve are you?
If your company is like most, it is situated somewhere in the middle of the Technology Adoption Curve, adopting or accepting innovation after a certain degree of time or on par with the rest of society. There are different financial, cultural, and political reasons within companies that anchor organizations in this middle ground.
There are several questions you can ask yourself in order to determine where your company falls on the curve and what needs to be changed in order to implement changes that will shift left. These include:
- Does your organization measure mistakes as losses or learning opportunities?
- Are team members encouraged to take risks or held to the tried and true?
- Are employees encouraged to speak with candor and express themselves freely?
Your responses will help you to assess the overall situation within your organization.
Phil Simon, author of the book Analytics: The Agile Way, breaks down organizations into three types:
- The Struggling Organization: overwhelmed by the requirements or challenges of implementing new IT projects, often due to past failures.
- The Self-Sufficient Organization: motivated by cost of non-compliance, they tend to be reluctant to take the lead on a new but largely untested technology.
- The Adventurous Organization: driven by the desire—or need—to be on the cutting edge, they are quick to implement new technologies that are largely untested.
Simon goes on to identify the main attributes of the so-called adventurous organization, those who are located on the left side of the technology adoption curve. They are:
- Sufficient financial resources
- A “risk-tolerant” culture
- A compelling business need
Turn into a champion in the technology adoption lifecycle
Innovation requires innovative thinking. Innovative thinking requires an organizational environment that encourages team members to develop the skills they need to embrace new ideas and concepts. As Phil Simon points out that the problem with this middle ground is that “when walking is a challenge, it’s hard to imagine running.”
Of course, those individual team members who fit the description of “laggard” more often than not are lacking tools, incentives and opportunities to develop the skills they need to move left on the curve.
StarMeUp is a tool that leverages one of the great assets in today’s most competitive organizations: their human resources. “StarMeUp puts employees at the center of change by offering a space in which teams feel empowered, inherently improving collaboration and knowledge sharing,” says Englebienne, CTO and co-founder of Globant.
When using the peer-to-peer recognition platform StarMeUp to showcase positive influencers within your organization, regardless of either party’s geographic location, department or level, it can put every employee in a proverbial pair of running shoes, ensuring equal opportunities for them to take off at a sprint on the technology adoption curve.
It’s time to lace up and start running!
Refresher course: The many faces of the innovation adoption lifecycle
The concept of the technology adoption lifecycle is based on a theory disseminated by Everett Rogers, a professor of communication studies, in his book Diffusion of Innovations, which was first published in 1962 and is now in its fifth edition (2003). Rodgers based his research about how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread on concepts that date back to the late 19th century.
Rodgers’s innovation adoption lifecycle has been adopted as the standard for measuring the propensity for innovation in companies and individuals:
Rodgers breaks down the profile of the different stakeholders:
Innovators (2.5%) – Innovators are the first individuals to adopt an innovation. Innovators are willing to take risks, youngest in age, have the highest social class, have great financial lucidity, very social and have closest contact to scientific sources and interaction with other innovators. Risk tolerance has them adopting technologies which may ultimately fail. Financial resources help absorb these failures. (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 282)
Early Adopters (13.5%) – This is the second fastest category of individuals who adopt an innovation. These individuals have the highest degree of opinion leadership among the other adopter categories. Early adopters are typically younger in age, have a higher social status, have more financial lucidity, advanced education, and are more socially forward than late adopters. More discrete in adoption choices than innovators. Realize judicious choice of adoption will help them maintain central communication position (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 283).
Early Majority (34%) – Individuals in this category adopt an innovation after a varying degree of time. This time of adoption is significantly longer than the innovators and early adopters. Early Majority tend to be slower in the adoption process, have above average social status, contact with early adopters, and seldom hold positions of opinion leadership in a system (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 283)
Late Majority (34%) – Individuals in this category will adopt an innovation after the average member of the society. These individuals approach an innovation with a high degree of skepticism and after the majority of society has adopted the innovation. Late Majority are typically skeptical about an innovation, have below average social status, very little financial lucidity, in contact with others in late majority and early majority, very little opinion leadership.
Laggards (16%) – Individuals in this category are the last to adopt an innovation. Unlike some of the previous categories, individuals in this category show little to no opinion leadership. These individuals typically have an aversion to change-agents and tend to be advanced in age. Laggards typically tend to be focused on “traditions”, likely to have lowest social status, lowest financial fluidity, be oldest of all other adopters, in contact with only family and close friends, very little to no opinion leadership.