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Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation theory outlines five ways people adopt technology changes.
This theory is a popular model of change and discusses how innovations such as ideas or products are spread throughout the population over time. According to an article by June Kaminski in the Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics, the “diffusion of innovation refers to the process that occurs as people adopt a new idea, product, practice, or philosophy until a saturation point is achieved.” The theory sets out five categories that characterize how people adopt changes and the rate at which that occurs. Let’s look at the five approaches people use to adopt technological changes.
The first category is the innovators, otherwise known as the technology enthusiasts. This group only represents 2.5 percent of the population; they are the people that are the first to adopt technological changes and take the least amount of time to do so. Innovators are willing to take on the largest amount of risk with little assurances. These tech enthusiasts are quick to recognize the financial and social value of technological changes. They want to be recognized as agents of change, which makes them ideal for educating the following group.
Early adopters are also referred to as the visionaries; they account for 13.5 percent of the population. Visionaries see themselves as trend setters or opinion leaders; they pride themselves on being the first people to embrace new technology innovations. This group of adopters is attracted to high risk, high reward projects no matter what the cost is. Their focus is on pushing the boundaries of technology and setting cultural trends. Visionaries can help technology companies collect early performance data to assess and improve their products.
The early majority group, also known as the pragmatists, is one of the two largest groups. Pragmatists account for 34 percent of adopters; they like to avoid risk, stay on budget and they don’t like complex technology. Pragmatists are not resistant to change, but they prefer changes that serve a function. These adopters are more likely to adopt a change if the technology can improve productivity or enhance their performance. They are more likely to adopt a technology change that is backed by other industry professionals as they frequently engage with their peers.
The second largest group of adopters is the late majority, also known as the conservatives, who account for 34 percent of the population. This group is cautious, skeptical and technology shy. However, they do recognize the need to keep up with technological changes. Conservatives will only adopt tech changes that are financially necessary and guarantee an effective solution. Conservatives are most likely to take their tech advice from their peers as they are easily influenced by this in their decision to keep with tech trends.
The final group is the laggards, otherwise known as the skeptics, and they account for 16 percent of the population. Laggards are often skeptical of technology changes and prefer to stick to the status quo. Some skeptics may view technological changes as hindering their performance. Skeptics are often cited as reminiscent of the traditional ways when technology was not such a big part of life. Laggards tend to spend little time with opinion leaders, compounding their desire to do things the way they used to be done.
It is important to note that there are other factors that impact the process and approach an individual takes to adopting technology changes. Time affects the adoption process and the rate of adoption from the start to the point of saturation. Peer networks are another important factor in the adoption process as that is how changes spread.
The people in your network also matter because some people have a greater influence on our adoption of technology changes than others. The channel of communication can also impact the process, and the likelihood of adopting a technological change, as person to person communication is the most effective thanks to social media.