If only we could predict how quickly our initiatives will be adopted! Then we could focus on those that will yield high returns and we could reduce the risk of failure. But… those people! They always mess things up! Even when we think we have the perfect product / technology / purpose / program, people mess it up!
While I can’t give you a crystal ball, I have found a useful way to evaluate initiatives and determine a rough prediction of the rate of adoption. To be honest, this could be for anything – any product, process, technology, social initiative, chore chart program for your kids… But let’s focus on making major changes within your company.
The Adoption Index
One of my favorite books is Diffusion of Innovations by Everett M. Rogers. Although this largely academic book was originally written in 1962, it hasn’t lost any of its usefulness. It explains why innovations and technologies – in the true sense of the word – are adopted, or not, and at what rate. Rogers explains that there are five factors which have the most weight in the outcome. I will briefly explain each in context.
1)“Relative advantage is the degree to which an innovation is perceived as better than the idea it supersedes. The degree of relative advantage may be measured in economic terms, but social prestige factors, convenience, and satisfaction are also important factors.”
To many, social technologies are just another thing they have to check. Rather than realizing that it supersedes anything, they see that it is an addition to what they already have to do. And they already don’t have enough time! Convenient? No way! Satisfaction when there is perceived information overload?
How do we combat relative advantage when it comes to implementing initiatives at your company? Contrary to popular belief, an ROI will not convince them. It will help them get over an obstacle, but I have never seen someone walk away from a presentation on ROI energized and excited to tackle a new organizational project. At this point it is stories and examples and case studies which spark their imagination. In a large part, it is a process of education and perceived application.
2)“Compatibility is the degree to which an innovation is perceived as being consistent with the existing values, past experiences, and needs of potential adopters.”
When I work with companies, this is often referred to as CULTURE. What values, traditions, beliefs to employees hold to tightly? And how does the new technology match up with the culture? This is an especially tricky one because with social technologies within the workplace it almost always matches up well with the values of the company. Yet the operative word in the description above is PERCEIVED. How are social technologies perceived? As time wasters, one more system to learn, a fun platform, full of noise, and the list goes on.
One way I have broken past this is to show the Party Planning video. It breaks down preconceived ideas and they suddenly get it. They had a different perception of what “it” was. Suddenly they get a peak into what it REALLY is and they realize how well compatible the values really are.
3)“Complexity is the degree to which an innovation is perceived as difficult to understand and use.”
This, now so much more than before, is increasingly important. In this world of clean and simple UIs and Twitter, we feel we should be able to look at something, or read it, or experience it and instantly understand it. If it takes time (precious time that employees don’t want to give up) to understand, then often it is not worth the effort.
And then if they try and it is as difficult as they thought, this creates another obstacle. They gave it a try, it wasn’t worth it and so they go back to the old way of working.
4)“Trialability is the degree to which an innovation may be experimented with on a limited basis.”
Not all innovations can be experimented with. For example, a new organizational structure often just needs to happen, rather than be experimented with. And again, our modern culture has set the expectation of free trials, subsidized technologies and throw away products, ideas, and methodologies. The danger here is that the latest so-called fad is not experimented with deeply enough to understand it. We tend to cover the surface, hoping that the learner will dive in deeper. But they too often do not.
Yet the easier it is to dive in, try it out and come back to their safe place, the more likely it is to be experimented with. The more this happens, the easier it will be to process into their own values.
5) “Observability is the degree to which the results of an innovation are visible to others. The easier it is for individuals to see the results of an innovation, the more likely they are to adopt.”
Not only are they looking for the stated result, but they are looking for the unintentional results sometimes even more. For example, rather than agreeing to forgo a vacation policy and allow each person to keep track of their own, they want not only to know the financial impacts, but if people will abuse the new policy. To them it may be obvious – again we are talking about perception.
I must point out that this is only skimming the surface. To really understand this (and make the tool more useful) I would suggest buying the book and going through at least the first couple of chapters.
In the next post I will explain how we can use these factors to guage the rate of adoption of your initiative. There will also be examples of how I have used it to show adoption rates.