Diffusion of Innovation

(I first published this on eelearning wiki on May 10, 2007)

Geoffrey Moore’s work in the diffusion of innovation expanded upon the initial work of rogers.  In short, the model states that any innovation will follow an adoption rate that roughly resembles a bell curve.  This curve is divided into five market sectors which represent groups of consumers who share similar characteristics as they consider and then adopt new ideas and products. The five groups are:

  • innovators– The risk-takers and creators.  Fascinated by anything new.  Willing to beta test and trying unfinished products.
  • early adoptors – Like to be seen as leaders.  Will be first in line to buy new technologies.
  • early majority – Will wait until they understand the utility of a new technology.  want to be sure it works and is useful.
  • late majority – Will only adopt a technology that is well established and guaranteed to work.  Would rather be seen as conservative than risk having to deal with fixing a broken tool.
  • laggards – resistant to any innovations.  Often will state that “it’s not for me.”  Will only adopt when there is little choice.

Moore introduced a number of key concepts to Roger’s initial concept of the diffusion curve.  The first being that in the marketplace, each class of consumer looks to the group immediately to it’s left for guidance in their decision to adopt an innovation.  For example, members of the late majority will look to see what the early majority are doing.  Are they having success with the technology?  Do they recommend it?  An early adoptor or an innovator will have little success winning over a late majority consumer because they don’t “speak the same language” or at least one the late majority understands.

The second concept that Moore introduced is that of “the chasm.”   In his research, Moore noticed a reoccurring situation as innovations, technologies, and companies that were red hot amongst innovators and early adoptors would not successfully reach full market success amongst early and late majority adoptors.  These companies would go down in flames at the same point on the curve.  this area Moore calls the chasm.  crossing the chasm is a very difficult task that any innovation or innovative company must successfully accomplish to reach wide market success.  It requires a total rethink of what the technology is and what the marketing message needs to be.  Some of the shifts are represented in the table below.

prior to the chasm after the chasm
has a compelling vision. meets a real consumer need.
how it is achieved is important. simple to use without being a techie.
is this cool? what’s in it for me?
how innovative it is? how will it fit with my lifestyle?
what can I learn from using it? i don’t want to have to learn anything to use it.