Innovators, Early Adopters, Majority, and Laggards — Where Do You Fit In?
Preparing our students for their future requires that we understand the need to change, to innovate, as our new modus operandi. Innovativeness is the pedagogy of the future. Where do you fit in on the innovation adoption curve? To embrace this constant state of change, we must be ready and willing to try new things.
When the first iPhone came out, did you have to have it or did you wait to see if this crazy new phone was for real? When it came to popsockets on phones, were you all in or are you still not sure it made sense?
Are you all in for online banking or still writing paper checks? Depending on how you embrace this new ‘thing’, you may be on the front edge of adopting or you may wait until the end to make sure it finally ‘caught on.’
The First Follower
Change takes place naturally at the individual level, but when a community of people purposefully embrace change a powerful movement happens. How do we help our school communities change? How can we too, meaningfully change for the better? Understanding how a movement starts is a key component on our journey. Derek Siver’s TED Talk “The First Follower: Leadership Lessons from a Dancing Guy” beautifully illustrates how a movement starts.
Siver’s explains that a Leader (Innovator) has the guts to stand out and be ridiculed, but that alone does not start a movement.
The First Follower who joins the Leader validates the movement and makes it appear less risky for others to follow. The other followers model their behaviors after the First Follower, not the Leader. With more and more followers, this movement finally gains momentum and begins to create a real shift in larger scale cultural adoption. An important lesson for us to understand is that the Leader treats the First Follower as an equal, as a co-leader.
A more detailed look at adopting innovation or promoting change can be discovered through an analysis of Everett Roger’s Diffusion of Innovation adopter curve. Roger’s identifies the Leader as an Innovator and the First Follower as an Early Adopter but here, Rogers, breaks down the “other followers” into more detailed categories in this innovation adopter curve.
If we want to promote change in our schools, it is extremely important we recognize our strengths and weaknesses in our professional practice and know where we stand in the curve of adopting innovations. Such recognition can lead to real, positive growth. Each group correlates to one of the five adopter categories below.
Innovators are interested in new ideas from outside of the established local social system. Innovators do not have a map: they create it. They forge ahead, accepting the consequences as they come. Innovators are generally able to understand and apply complex technical knowledge. They are able to cope with a high degree of uncertainty about an innovation at the time of adoption. They learn from failure. Innovators are risk-takers and true adventurers.
Early adopters are invested and respected in the local school community. Early adopters use the experiences of innovators to construct a map. They are cautious and want their efforts informed by research and best practices. Early adopters are not known for risk-taking, but they have a reputation for well-thought-out execution of emergent technology. Change agents seek this group out to speed up the adoption of innovation.
The early majority adopts an innovation just before the average person, making them an important link in a successful process launch. They do not want to go first. They put weight on the importance of curriculum and will cautiously proceed, using the early adopters’ map to embark on their journey. They employ best practices based on the experiences of innovators and early adopters.
The late majority adopts just after the early majority. The late majority sees there is a map but is not sold on the purpose and is not really convinced this journey is for them. They adopt sometimes due to economic pressure, peer pressure, or both. The late majority must see the innovation as already being successful before they adopt. You might call them “team players” since they are willing to join the other adopters once they realize it is for the greater good. The late majority may not be very excited about technology of any kind, but they make the change for the benefit of their school community
Let’s be honest, we are all Laggards at one thing or another. I still have a box of VCR tapes in my closet at school, just in case…. too bad I don’t have a VCR. Laggards like things the way they are—comfortable and predictable. They don’t see a reason to change things when what they’ve always done works well enough. Laggards must be positively certain a new idea will not fail before they will adopt it. They are concerned about being blamed if the innovation fails to yield expected results.
Where Do You Fit In?
No matter where we find ourselves on the innovation adoption curve, it’s important that we are honest with ourselves, in this moment, as we prepare to embark on a journey of change. True change requires that champions understand the value in the cause or purpose and communicate that to those around them. We must be ready and willing to work with all adopters in order to truly make a difference.
Let’s Do This!
Micah Shippee, PhD is a social studies teacher and educational technology trainer with two decades of experience. Micah is listed by EdTech Digest as one of 100 top influencers in EdTech for 2019-2020. He works to bridge the gap between research and practice in the educational sector. Micah explores ways to improve motivation in the classroom and seeks to leverage emergent technology to achieve educational goals. As an innovative “ideas” person, Micah likes to think, and act, outside the box. As an Author, Educational Consultant, and Keynote Speaker, he focuses on the adoption of emergent technology through the development of an innovative learning culture. Micah believes that innovativeness is the pedagogy of the future. You can connect with Micah @micahshippee or by email at [email protected]
Learn more about leading a movement in WanderlustEDU: An Educator’s Guide to Innovation, Change and Adventure.