Who Adopts New Technology and Who Does Not?

For some, new technology is easy to adopt. They thrive on innovation and are always looking for the next big thing. Some people seem more inclined than others to jump on the tech bandwagon and explore new ways of doing things. But is it innate?

Many of us are familiar with the various personality tests, and the site 16personalities.com conducted an unscientific poll of its members. Regarding the smartphone revolution, the site wanted to know whether certain personalities were more or less apt to adopt to the smartphone when it arrived nearly twenty years ago.

Two types of personalities stick out: observant types and introverts. In their study, Observant types were not as likely as others to adopt new technology, in no small part because of their focus on watching how things unfold. Observant people may be more inclined to let others play the guinea pig. This isn’t always a bad trait to have, and I’m sure there were plenty of people that were glad to wait and see if automobiles or airplanes were safe before risking life and limb. But sometimes, waiting too long will prevent you from seizing opportunities and gaining a competitive advantage over the rest of the field.

For introverts, it should come as no surprise that it may take a little prodding to try new things. But that’s ok. It’s important to understand how and why you do what you do. On the other hand, we have extroverts, who seek stimulation. Smartphones, and the connectivity to the world they provide, allows those personality types to flourish. Commanders and Entrepreneurs, two other types, have an innate skill to lead and to embrace change. While plenty of personality types are capable of leadership, some are more naturally inclined.

Citing Diffusion of Innovations by Everett Rogers, the authoritative text on innovators, the site On Digital Marketing shows how five categories of the population adopt new technology over time. They are divided into: Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority, and Laggards. But these groups are not evenly distributed; in fact, only 2.5% of the population are Innovators. 

Perhaps most importantly, Early Adopters are 13.5% of the population. Again, these are not just a random sample of everyday citizens; the Early Adopter is an opinion leader, educated, and of higher social status. While the Innovators are the ones to develop and adopt an innovation early on, the process of dissemination requires the Early Adopters to flourish.

Let’s not forget about John F. Kennedy. His life story matches well with the profile of an Early Adopter. His father was a wealthy businessman, plugged into the elite. That lifestyle afforded JFK the opportunity to excel, publishing his first book right out of college. It should come as no surprise that, in his bid for the presidency, he would again excel in the new medium of television. 

But what about those of us who are not Innovators or Early Adopters?

The third and fourth tranches are Early Majority and Late Majority. Between the two, 68% of the population is represented. These groups are the average person. They aren’t particularly well-educated, wealthy or of high status. Society relies on the Early Adopters to begin raising the profile of new technology; the rest slowly get on board.

Finally, the Laggards bring up the rear. This 16% share of the population are averse to change, likely the oldest of the five groups and have little contact with those outside of their immediate family and friends. 

Put onto a graph, we see the groups spread into a bell curve and the growth of a market share for whatever technology is adopted. By the time every Laggard adopts something, the market share is 100%.

Via OnDigitalMarketing.com

So, we can see that not everyone is going to adopt new technology at the same rate, and that’s ok. It’s important to understand how everyone is different, and how some factors that decide our proclivity for this or that technology may be beyond our control. 

Understanding the differences in individuals is important as a leader; it allows us to prioritize who should work in certain fields, and makes our businesses and organizations run more smoothly.

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