What Is the Innovation Curve?
A company’s position on the innovation curve indicates how it thinks about, embraces, or adapts to change. On one end of the innovation curve are Innovators; on the other end are Laggards:
Innovators: A very small percentage (2.5 percent) of companies and decision-makers fall into this category. They break the rules because, as far as they’re concerned, there are no rules. They instigate disruptive technologies, technologies that change how people live and see the world.
Innovators brought us downloadable music, Google maps, and social networking. Innovators are incubators for start-up companies that thrive on the edge of uncertainty and boldly lead where no other company has gone before.
Question for you: How long did it take you to experiment with social media in your business? When did your business get its Facebook page or start monitoring customer feedback on Yelp.com? The longer you took to explore the effects of new technology on your business, the further behind you become, exposing your company to greater uncertainty.
Early Adopters: Early Adopters are people and companies who are quick to grasp a good idea when they see one. They prefer to lead, not follow, and they aren’t afraid to invent or adopt different ways of doing things if doing so gives them an edge. About 13.5 percent of people and businesses fall into this category. They are risk takers.
Early Majority: People and companies that fall into this category are open to change as long as it doesn’t rock the boat too much. They operate in the zone between the Early Adopters and the Late Majority folks, veering back and forth between the two.
They want innovation, but only after the bugs have been ironed out. Their business culture can be in transformation for several reasons, one of which is that they are moving from a command-and-control structure to a more adaptive and flexible culture.
Late Majority: People in this group, which constitutes 34 percent of people and companies, prefer to wait until they feel absolutely certain about what is going on. Results have to be consistent before they feel comfortable introducing new ideas into their culture.
When it’s no longer practical to resist, they’ll transplant an idea from elsewhere but will do so without adapting it to fit. If this quick fix fails, which is highly probable, they blame the idea rather than examine how the implementation process may have sabotaged their success.
Late Majority companies prefer to avoid risk and prevent mistakes, value perfectionism and predictability, and don’t like surprises. They have a low level of trust in their employees’ abilities and insert tons of controls to ensure that no one colors outside the lines. (Note that some of these characteristics also apply to Early Majority companies that still have one foot stuck in old habits.)
Laggards: The Laggards are the real old-timers who prefer to use a rotary phone, still fax messages, and don’t know how to turn on a computer. Get the picture? About 16 percent of people and companies fall into this category.
Companies that don’t manage their cultures can unintentionally punish or block the creativity and innovation they expect employees to deliver.