Data sets that describe how well the business is running today—cash flow, inventory turnover, sales vs. accounts receivables—are important. But, they aren’t necessarily good indicators of how your company will perform six months from now. To steer a competitive course for growth, businesses of all sizes must be agile so they can change with a market constantly in flux.
Technology is the lynchpin driving growth across numerous industries. From IoT devices in manufacturing to new cloud computing platforms in marketing and HR, the world is inches closer to a completely technology-driven society every day. As I wrote in an earlier Forbes article, investing in technology is only part of the success equation. To fully realize your company’s potential, you must also strategically invest in the people who are driving technological change across all organizational levels.
Use the Adoption Bell Curve to Chart a New Course
The Diffusion of Innovation (DOI) Theory is one of the most widely referenced social science theories across industries. The concept, using a traditional bell curve graph, explains how populations adopt innovations. Today, the adoption bell curve is highly applicable in reference to technology adoption at the consumer and enterprise level. Focusing on the enterprise applications, the five categories describe both departments within an organization as well as the people:
• Innovators (2.5% of a population). Innovators are the visionaries willing to try new ideas and take risks along the way.
• Early adopters (13.5%). People in this category are the thought leaders and change drivers within an organization. They may not express a willingness to try anything that comes along, but they’re comfortable with change and helping others understand the importance of change. Some organizations refer to these individuals as technology champions.
• Early majority (34%). These individuals aren’t thought leaders, but they are the people you see lined up outside of a store on the day a new technology comes to market. As soon as they see the demonstrated benefits of a change, they’re willing to jump on board.
• Late majority (34%). Typically skeptics, this population waits until a larger population adopts an innovation to invest time and effort making a change.
• Laggards (16%). Every organization has individuals “stuck in their ways.” Convincing these individuals to make a change is challenging.
Start categorizing the departments or colleagues you know who fit loosely into these categories. When it comes to technology advancement, mindsets often play a more important role than hard skills. In my experience, people willing to change, adapt, and start something new over and over again are the ones who drive growth and take companies into the future.
Create a Culture That Thrives in the Early Bell Curve Categories
Technology changes at a rapid rate due to competitive innovation, lowered implementation costs, and facilitator technologies—such as the cloud and mobile devices. To integrate new technology at a reasonable pace, many organizations can no longer afford to coddle or work around late majority and laggard thinking, and one visionary leader isn’t enough to push a company into a culture of change. Individuals throughout the organization need to demonstrate the innovator, early adopter, and early majority traits in order to execute a leader’s vision.
Technologically advanced businesses don’t operate under a strict hierarchy. Instead, they respect individuality, support innovation, and empower departments to act independently as well as collaboratively to reach target business outcomes. Businesses aren’t enacting these changes for the sake of technology, but to continually realize field level optimization goals and improve the traditional performance indicators that drive daily operations.
Look for These Traits in Early Adopters
As businesses adopt technology faster and faster, should they use innovator/early adopter traits as recruiting criteria? I think businesses will start to naturally look for soft skills that indicate a willingness and capability to adapt over time. In addition to a basic skill set indicative of technical flexibility, businesses will look for indications that new candidates:
• Are willing to bring new ideas forward from the ground level so management can make better, more informed decisions regarding technological innovations.
• Can work independently from any location to execute the job completely and efficiently using a variety of technology-driven tools.
• Can multitask or shut out distractions as needed to prioritize work and meet performance expectations.
• Value collaboration instead of viewing the workplace as a competitive arena in which individuals walk all over one another to rise to the top.
The business world needs more early adopters to give brands a competitive edge, exploit technology to the fullest, and create a rewarding working environment. To maximize the gains outlined in your technology strategy, consider focusing on the early adopter talent instead of forcing technology on late majority and laggard adopters.
This article was written by Daniel Newman from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.