Identifying Early Adopters

By Steve Zuieback · Posted Monday, January 13, 2014

How to Identify Early Adopters

This is a companion blog to one entitled, Adoption of An Idea. Once you understand the ideas represented in the Adoption of An Idea model originally developed by Everett Rogers, the question becomes, "How do you identify these critical people"? The Early Adopters are generally about 9-15% of a population and they vary depending upon the context of the issue. Some people are Early Adopters around environmental concerns, others around issues of politics, others around technology and so forth. 

The video link above will take you through the steps of identifying Early Adopters for your community or organization and around your specific context. Remember, Early Adopters are people who are highly respected, credible and very connected throughout your organization or community. 

Basic Steps in Identifying Early Adopters:

Step 1: Clarifying the population with an intial design team.

Identify a list of people from your organization or community who you think are already potential people of great influence, connection and credibilty. Bring them together and review the Adoption of An Idea model. Ask each of them to go out to people who they think are potential early adopters and ask that group to identify additional early adopters.

Step 2: Develop an initial list of early adopters.

From the list of people gathered from step one, develop an inital list of early adopters that span your organization or commuity.

Step 3: Make a grid of the proposed early adopters.

Assemble the original people from step one and make a large grid of all the people that have been identified. These people are listed vertically down the grid and the horizontal axis of the grid is broken down with the various critical stakeholder sectors you want to include.

Step 4: Identify the core 

In this step, you take the key people who overlap multiple stakeholder groups and put them through a second grid - second sorting. In this sort you look at the specific areas of focus that are critical to your issue as an organization or community. This last group of people go through a weighting process that develops a numerical value associated with each person. You can read more about this type of sorting process by looking at the Decision Matrix Process. You would then select the 10 to 20 people based on their numerical rating as the final group of early adopters.

Step 5: Extend an invitation to the early adopters

Once you have identified all of the early adopters through the prior 4 steps, invite them to a meeting in which you ask them to be an inital planning team. The charge of this team would be to identify the mission, vision, principles and high level strategies for your change initiative. Remember, early adopters don't like to be sold on your ideas, they like to develop their own innovative approaches. 

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