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Innovator or laggard?

‘What makes people despair is that they try to find a universal meaning to the whole of life, and then end up saying it is absurd, illogical, empty of meaning.’ (Anais Nin, Journals Vol 1)

Whilst Roger’s categories may be his view of people on an historical landscape of invention they are a simplification – wherein lies our first dilemma – to open our minds to the nature & possibilities of e.learning we need to find a way to engage with its complexity.

We could each come up with our own equally valid descriptors and argue our case.

What is more, there is an in-built bias to these terms: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority & laggards. With ‘laggards,’ perhaps like ‘Luddites’ pejoratively considered to be of less worth than the ‘innovators.’

Or not?

Ideas sell. So does innovation. I know from experience. As the inventive one  – the team needed a salesperson. (an early adopter) and a business manager (very much in the late majority verging on being a laggard). A new business, that if successful may prove an innovation works, is like a pop group, made up of an assortment of band members. An innovator alone is like the nutty profession, Mr Brainstorm or from ‘Back to the Future’, Dr Emit Brown & his ‘flux-capacitor’ that drove his time machine. Does not the innovator sell to the early adopter? What is the point in tryin to sell to the laggard? And what role does the market play for innovations? In advertising we talked of ‘preaching to the converted.’ In relation to innovative products, you need to be selling to those who are already or are prone to ‘buy in’ to the new technology, software or service.

Roger’s is surely just one set of stepped criteria, we could as readily differentiate between:

  • various levels of success & failure,
  • between risk takers vs & the risk averse
  • between the foolish & considered
  • between experimental vs experiential
  • between novelty vs tried & tested

And each or any of these could be researched, charted, put on maps and shared as annotated demographic pyramids.

As Mel Brooks put it in relation to writing:

‘Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities and have them relate to other characters living with him.’

All Rogers has done is to give some characters types separate terms.

Aptly, from the world of writing fiction (novels, screenplays) there are the terms ‘protagonist’ & ‘antagonist.’ I wonder if in a screenplay that incorporated characters from Roger’s terms by implication the ‘protagonist’ is the innovator, while the ‘antagonist’ is the laggard. And do you know what, it is the conflict between the two that generates innovation, the one trying to prove themselves right, the storyline in which the ‘early adopters,’ ‘early majority,’ ‘late majority’ & ‘laggards’ literally buy into the service or produc

… or not?

Where else have we been grouped & bunched?

In ‘Sloane Rangers’ Peter York defined a group form Chelsea, a dress sense and background, a typical mode of behaviour and in newspapers at the time other socio-economic groups were dwelt upon and picked up by what they wore and how they spoke.

Labels are used to bully

Would you like to be called a ‘laggard;’ over an ‘innovator.’ Coming out of advertising I am used to those in what we called ‘planning’ categorising customers in all manner of ways to suit the product, the client & the moment.

In 2001 I took an Enneagram Test and came out as a FIVE.

“Fives are basically on some level estranged from the rest of the world, consequently, their mind is usually their best friend. They like to analyze things and make sense of them (that is their anchor), this makes them great inventors and philosophers. The immense inner world of fives can cause them to lose touch or interest in reality.”

http://similarminds.com

Instead of innovators and laggards these ‘tests’ gave you a number. I am not a number, or a term. I’d like to think of myself as something more complex, wouldn’t you? As Anais Nin puts it, we are each a book:

‘There is not one big, cosmic meaning for all, there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.‘ (Anais Nin, Journals Vol 1)

It is from this complexity, this individualisation (if you must) and tapping into it, that innovation results, and where e.learning innovation is heading. Which is why I am here.

‘What’s new about new media? Not much!’

So I wrote a decade ago when briefing a team of communications managers from ABB on the use of the web.

What seems innovative today, may not seem so innovative tomorrow. Indeed, is it still innovative once it has become familiar and every day? And might one way of determining when something is no longer innovative when it is adopted by the ‘laggards.’ Crystal sets became the wireless that in turn became the radio. carphone, becomes mobies (cellphones), then smart phones (and iphones).

Nearly a decade ago a group of ‘innovators’ met at Sussex Net Ventures. (Tuesday 19th September 2000) At this event hosted by Wired Sussex, Hugh Griffiths of iTouch said there would be

“No killer application but a killer cocktail.”

hugh.griffiths@itouch.com

This cocktail, to result in innovation, requires a team that includes a cross-section of those ‘labelled’ by Rogers: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority & laggards.

What makes an innovator?

Why do they stand out? Because they are passionate? Persuasive? Determined? Imaginative? Entrepreneurial? Well educated? Moneyed? All of these things, or none of them.

And why are there so few of them? Henry Miller puts in well in ‘Tropic of Cancer.’

“What distinguishes the majority of men from the few is their inability to act according to their beliefs.”

Who can deny the self-belief of Bill Gates? Or Tim Berners-Lee?
Innovators believe in what they are doing. Whether they are successful (and how you measure or determine success is another matter).

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