Tortoise Beats Hare? Early adopters vs. late adopters. The reasons, the pros, the cons.panos papadopoulos, february 2012
In every phase of human civilization, certain people havealways embraced innovation faster than others – bothtechnological and cultural.
Daring individuals would tread new ground, looking to improve their livesby endorsing the new, in every shape and form.
At the same time, others have resisted every technological and culturalbreakthrough. They stubbornly insisted the Earth is flat, and that leecheswere the cure for every illness from the common cold to leprosy.
Today, the same scenario still applies. Some organizations voraciously search forthe next big thing. They’re eager to find ways to exploit the newest socialplatform, racing against time to arrive first at the next digital innovation...
While others still discuss whether or not“social media is really for them”.
What accounts for these differences between early and late adopters? Why dosome organizations look to the future, ambitiously taking risks, while others appearsluggish and are utterly risk-averse? And what are the consequences?
Early adopters.The reasons.Lean, flexible organizationsThe leaner an organization is, the more it appears to favor individual initiative,leading to an early adoption of innovative practices.
Early adopters.The reasons.Agile decision-makingOften, flexible organizations have limber and efficient Command & Controlsystems promoting swift decision making.These systems can either be centralized, with one person sitting on top of thepyramid, as an omnipotent leader, or decentralized, with each silo or fiefdomenjoying a significant degree of autonomy.
Early adopters.The reasons.The Steve Jobs SyndromeLean organizations often give rise to visionary men-of-action that areprone to embracing cutting-edge solutions.
Early adopters.The reasons.Transparency & accountabilityLean, flexible organizations that promote individual initiative are, moreoften than not, also the most transparent ones. Success is rewarded,and failure cannot be hidden under the carpet of infighting ormitigated by general mediocrity.
Early adopters.The pros.The road to EldoradoThe successful innovator forges new paths, shapes andexploits them to their benefit. The first to reach Eldorado notonly gets to have dibs on untold riches, but can also stake aclaim on the territory.
Early adopters.The pros.A reputation for coolnessThe successful innovator is sprinkled with the fairy dust ofcoolness that can be readily cashable. Of course, innovationneeds to remain constant to uphold this reputation.
Early adopters.The cons.Petri dishThe innovator is everyone’s guinea pig. Middle-of-the-road competitors will waitto see the results of the experiment. If it succeeds, most will follow suit to exploitthe formula. Some latecomers may also improve on the pioneers’ recipe.If it fails, competitors will be relieved for not being caught in the fallout.
Early adopters.The cons.Terra incognitaNo matter how calculated a risk is, it is always a risk. And inherent in every risk is theelevated probability of failure. That is why a pioneer is, more often than not, either aninspired visionary or a fearless marauder. Possibly even a combination of the two.
Late adopters.The reasons.The dinosaursBulky, often overstuffed companies withcomplex, cumbersome structures tend tofavor decision-making inertia.
Late adopters.The reasons.Internal power strugglesCompanies that lack the mechanisms to swiftly resolveinter-departmental strife are often slow in makingtimely decisions.
Late adopters.The reasons.The Everyman syndromeCompanies that promote unexceptional, risk-averse John Does in keydecision-making positions are habitually slow in embracing innovation.Figureheads in these companies function as custodians of the status quo,even if this is unfavorable for the company.
Late adopters.The pros.Low risk, low lossesOperating within the limits of predictability andsafety guarantees that unexpected losses willbe avoided.
Late adopters.The pros.Nobody’s guinea pigsOnly pioneers suffer the costs of forging new paths.Those who walk the beaten path, tread safely.
Late adopters.The pros.Learning without doingLate adopters have the luxury of learning from the failures ofothers. And from the successes of those who crossed the innovationthreshold before them.
Late adopters.The cons.Nil doloris, nil majorisPlaying safely has never landed anyone exceptional gains. Only bystraying from the ordinary and embracing innovation as early aspossible can a company stake a claim to dramatically increased gains.
Late adopters.The cons.No booze left for latecomersLate adopters often arrive at a field grazed barren by early adopters.While late adopters may still improve on earlier attempts, in manycases they have to content themselves with leftovers.
Last words. The saved and the damned.
Early adopters. They were looking for ways to exploit Pinterest, even before itwas launched.Late adopters. In 2012, they are still trying to make up their minds whether ornot they should get into Facebook.
The roadmap. The pros On the road to The reasons Eldorado A reputation for Early coolness Lean, flexible organizations adopters Agile decision-making The Steve Jobs syndrome The cons Everyone’s Transparency & favourite guinea accountability pig Treading unknown ground The pros Low risk, low The reasons losses Nobody’s guinea pigs Late Dinosaur-like organizations adopters Learning Interdepartmental strife without doing The cons The Everyman syndrome No pain, no gain No booze left for latecomers
Early wins over late.Those marketeers that think and act fast, that jump on the newest socialplatform before it becomes everyone’s wet dream, are more likely to reap thefruits of success than those that perpetuate last year’s campaign planning.
In this era of rapid digital innovation, the tortoise will always come a distantsecond to the hare.
panos is a planner, always in search of the nextbig firstname.lastname@example.org id: Strategist3171thanks to kurt beren geiger and to stan gruel for their help