Everett Rogers grew up in rural Iowa. He noted that farmers were slow to pick up on innovations, even those that were likely to make them money. He started studying the process of ‘diffusion’, the spread of innovations. He noted that there were always a few ‘innovators’, people willing to take a chance on anything new. If the innovation worked for them, then another large group of ‘early adopters’ would follow their lead. They in turn would urge the early majority to give the product a go. At the back of the queue, the laggards stubbornly refuse.
The following diagram summarises the story.
There are many morals from the Rogers’ theory but among the most important are:
- we are all sheep. We think we are unique but in fact we just do what everybody else does. (Just look at how we dress, how we decorate our houses, what we eat, what we drink). We follow the crowd.
- don’t start with the laggards. You are not going to get anywhere. Start with the innovators. If you get it right with them, then the early adopters will follow, and then the early majority and then…..
- be super generous with your early adopters. They are going to help you sell your idea. They are helping you, so help them.
Does this make us think differently about recruiting SRG members? Do we go after everybody, or try and find the innovators and early adopters, knowing how others will follow their lead? In the test entry (18) we calculated 1,400 new SRGs. That feeds a lot to an organisation currently supporting 100 groups. But if we started with the innovators in this group, that is another 35. If we trusted the to help us attract the early adopters then we will have another 189. Now we are in business because if Rogers’ is right we can reasonably expect the 500 or so early majority to sign up.