What is innovation diffusion?
The original Innovation diffusion theory sought to explain how, why, and how fast new ideas and technologies spread through cultures. The origins of the idea go back to the 19th century but Everett Rogers popularized it in his 1962 book, Diffusion of Innovations. Subsequently strategists and corporate marketers picked up the theory to explain how new products moved through the marketplace. The model proposes that the flow of new, innovative products through the marketplace runs through five buyer or adopter types: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. The size of the groups follows a normal distribution curve.
In 1991, Geoffrey Moore expanded on the innovation diffusion mode in Crossing The Chasm by demonstrating that companies typically see fast growth in the two first market segments, innovators and early adopters, only to significantly slow and often completely stall when trying to move into the larger early majority market. Moore called the space between these groups the chasm.
The Strategy Diffusion Curve and its Chasm
I started thinking about this model in terms of strategy adoption and it fits remarkably well as the same type of chasm effect often occurs when companies initiate new strategies. Here is the way the strategy diffusion curve would look.
The true believers are people who immediately resonate with the strategy for a multitude of reasons.
The faithful followers are the people who are willing to follow anyone bold enough to lead. They don’t care what the strategy is, they just want clarity of direction.
The skeptical majority need convincing before moving forward. They don’t necessarily disagree with the strategy, they just want to make sure it is in their own best interest to sign up. They are essentially waiting for others in the skeptical majority to go first and prove it is sustainable.
The resistant majority need even more convincing. They have strong reservations about the strategy or management’s commitment to it. They are waiting to see how it works out for the skeptical majority.
The persistent unbelievers are never going to sign up. They don’t like the strategy and will continue to work against it – forever.