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When it comes to new ideas, are you a leader and first to adopt, are you late, or will you never?

It’s useful to revisit core concepts from time to time because you can see it in new light under different circumstances.

I was visiting Cambridge university earlier this week when this concept first touched upon by Everett Rogers came back to me.  Not only that I’ve been have a Facebook debate with a friend about the existence, or not, of the Climate Change phenomenon.  For the record, we now know the evidence for man-made climate change to be overwhelming and while the full consequences uncertain, evidence shows these are likely to be quite dramatic.  Not for my friend however.

The Core Concept


It works like this.

The “Innovators” are the first to see the use of and test the value the New and Shiny thing.  Think of the massive queues outside the Apple shop when a new iPhone is launched- but really these are more Early Adopters.

They want to be associated with the New Big Thing.  Being part of this tribe is incredibly importation for the Earlies.

The rest follow, either soon after or eventually when the ubiquity of the New Thing means it’s become the de faco standard.  Eventually, I’ll move away from my 3 year old Lenovo full featured laptop as cloud technology takes care of delivering everything from storage to media.  The costs in terms of, probably dismal battery life, will force me to Go Tablet.

The Laggard.  Even under the significant personal and financial costs, will only adopt The New Thing if and when they can’t use their device or the idea has become socially unacceptable. 

This is the place of extinction.

We’ll come back to The Chasm.

Revisiting Diffusion

All this made me think, not only about innovation diffusion, but about IDEA diffusion.  It’s relevant because a thing as important as how we behave collectively as a society is critical to our mutual well-being, it is also relevant to new business ideas and ways of working that can dramatically improve outcomes.

In other words, we can be Idea early adopters or idea laggards, where, even in the light of massive evidence and despite all the costs of being a Laggard we don’t move.

Consider this… What are you an Idea Leader on?  Why are you an Idea Laggard? What is it costing you or your business?

The Link to Managing Innovation

When I had a real job, I worked for a financially successful FTSE100 company touted as a great innovator. 

And in many respects, it was.

I set about redesigned the innovation system based on Open Innovation principles – after all OI was the New Big thing.  And I love a new idea as an early idea adopter/Innovator.

An almost shocking revelation came about when I interviewed 20 senior “innovation” leaders – but mostly R&D. It was after all an R&D heavy business.

Fifty percept could not define innovation and the same number held a belief that innovation cannot be organized, led and managed.  “Serendipitous events could not be planned.” 

But not only can you organize, lead and manage innovation, but you must.  The best performing organizations are those who have processes, systems and a leadership that recognises this and actively promotes this. The Chasm is that zone the idea or innovation just jump between those Earlies and the rest and it must be crossed to gain revenues / profits or to become ubiquitous.

So, DO have systems that do horizon scanning and technology forecasting. DO invest in your IT infrastructure for the Fuzzy Front End and DO undertake periodic health checks of you innovation systems. Build and continually refine you engine of growth.

In the face of overwhelming evidence from the best performers, don’t be a Laggard.


I work with companies to build better innovation systems in organizations and help them find and deliver new sources of innovation-led growth. Please contact me to discuss how we can build or give new power to your growth engine.

Rob Munro

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