How do you Adopt?

Digital Disruption, Part 3

Originally in 1962, and most recently in 2003, professor Everett Rogers detailed a systematic system by which innovation is adopted. In his book, Diffusion of Innovations, Rogers states that adopters of innovation (or in our current discussion, technology) can be broken down into 5 distinct groups of Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority and Laggards.

Image Source: phdsoft


Rogers breaks down the 5 categories as such (Rogers, 2003):

  1. Innovators2.5% of the population.  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.  Their high risk tolerance gives them the flexibility to try new technologies that are not yet proven out.
  2. Early Adopters13.5% of the population.  These individuals have the highest level of opinion leadership (the process by which a person influences the attitudes or actions of another person informally) among all the 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.  They tend to be more discreet in adoption choices than the early adopters which enables them to have a greater voice in opinions.
  3. Early Majority34% of the population.  They adopt innovation after a varying degree of time, which is significantly longer than innovators and early adopters. Early Majority have above average social status, contact with early adopters and seldom hold positions of opinion leadership in a system.
  4. Late Majority34% of the population.  These individuals will adopt innovation after the average adopter.  They approach an innovation with a high degree of skepticism. Late majority adopters have below average social status, little financial liquidity, and very little opinion leadership.
  5. Laggards16% of the population.  They are the last to adopt an innovation.  These individuals typically have no opinion leadership at all, they 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, and socially in contact with only family and close friends.

This breakdown by Rogers was based on many years of research and market study.  We can see that age, social status, finances and personal influence have a large impact on the categories of adopters. This makes sense as younger people are typically overall more willing to take risks compared to older generations.  The amount of finances available to you also directly impacts the level of risks you are willing to take.  And the social aspect is a fascinating addition to the equation.  The more socially connected you are, the higher the chance of you finding out about a new innovation.  Word of mouth at first, and then marketing later can help spread information regarding new innovations, allowing more and more individuals to investigate the innovation and decide on their participation.

This same model converts directly into the business environment.  Business Analyst Daniel Newman described in Forbes magazine how those same 5 categories apply to people within your organizations (Newman, 2016):

  1. Innovators – Innovators are the visionaries willing to try new ideas and take risks along the way.
  2. Early adopters – People in this category are the thought leaders and change drivers within an organization. They may not express a willingness to try anything that comes along, but they’re comfortable with change and helping others understand the importance of change. Some organizations refer to these individuals as technology champions.
  3.  Early majority – These individuals aren’t thought leaders, but they are the people you see lined up outside of a store on the day a new technology comes to market. As soon as they see the demonstrated benefits of a change, they’re willing to jump on board.
  4. Late majority – Typically skeptics, this population waits until a larger population adopts an innovation to invest time and effort making a change.
  5. Laggards – Every organization has individuals “stuck in their ways.” Convincing these individuals to make a change is challenging.

Newman goes on to say that in order for organizations to be able to adopt new technologies, individuals within the organization need to demonstrate the Innovator, Early Adopter and Early Majority traits in order to successfully integrate the technology at a reasonable pace.

Are you an Innovator?  An Early Adopter?  Or are you a Laggard?  A simple look at the technology you use day-to-day may tell others more than you realize.



Newman, Daniel. (2016).  Why you should align your Business Transformation too the Adoption Bell Curve.  Forbes.  Retrieved August, 30, 2017 from

Rogers, Everett. (2003). Diffusion of Innovations. Free Press.

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