At a Glance – Adoption Curve

Innovators to Laggards: Where Do You Fall on the Technology Adoption Curve?

In the first of our “At a glance’ series DISRUPTIONHUB’s Laura Cox gives a brief overview of the technology adoption curve.

An adoption curve, simply put, represents the time it takes for people to adopt a new innovation. It’s an important sociological model which can help innovators to understand their markets and (sort of) predict the outcome of their projects.

Despite the benefits of emerging technologies like the Internet of Things, Advanced Robotics and 3D Printing, it takes time and a lot of effort to convince people to fully accept them. The rate at which adoption takes place, also known as ‘innovativeness’, was popularised in the sixties by Everett Rogers in a theory called Diffusion of Innovators. According to the theory, markets can be split into five groups. The first category to accept innovation are the innovators themselves, which is somewhat reassuring. The second group are early adopters, who are young, financially stable risk-takers. The third and forth groups are the early and late majorities, who treat innovation with caution but will eventually follow the rest of the crowd. The final group are called laggards. They are typically older conservatives who grumble at change. When plotted on a simple graph, you can see a very distinct rise and fall. The yellow S-curve represents time taken until ‘full’ adoption.



Even though the Diffusion of Innovation theory was published 50 years ago, it’s still worth taking note of. The classic adoption curve reminds companies not to a.) Overestimate their market size, or b.) Underestimate how much it will take to convince their consumers. It also shows how different types of people are likely to react to change. Despite its usefulness, the accuracy of the classic adoption curve has been repeatedly questioned. In an era of fast-changing, technological advancement, the number of early adopters may need to be reconsidered – especially in light of adoptive success stories like Pokemon GO. It’s also difficult to accept that markets can be split into five coherent groups. People are individuals, after all, and not everyone will fit into one of the categories. The yellow S-curve also implies that the whole population will eventually accept an innovation, which simply isn’t true… Some people don’t even own TVs. However, the classic adoption curve remains a powerful warning for all developers and is still one of the most important theories for predicting the acceptance of new ideas.