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The thing about early adopters

The thing about early adopters

At the end of last Summer, I was sitting on the beach at Port Melbourne watching my kids at Nippers, when a lady sat down next to me and introduced herself. Her name was Jacqueline (but please call me Jacq), she was a retired art conservator and in her 80s. She regaled me with stories of working at galleries around Australia and the world. 

At one stage I shared that I worked in technology, then, after asking me to fix her phone, we started talking about technology changes over the years and how much our lives had been changed as a result. 

Jacq told me that she was working at the National Gallery of Victoria when email first appeared in the early 90s. She loved it immediately, but the Director wasn’t so impressed and said that email would not have a place at the NGV. Jacq responded that he was wrong and that she would be the first person to send him an email at the NGV. And she was. 

As I left the beach that day I was thinking about early adopters. 

My grandfather, Snowy, was an early adopter, he had one of the first telephones in Bendigo. He drove a truck, carting all sorts of things from one place to another. He got work by making contact, speaking to people, essentially spruiking his services to everyone he met. In the 40s, that meant getting around to as many people as possible, often being at the pub every night, and after a hard day’s work and 6pm closing time, it was tough. The telephone opened up a new world of making contact. 

My friend Sarah is an early adopter. She was studying journalism at university when YouTube first appeared. She rushed to her professor and proclaimed that this was going to change journalism forever. The professor said, we don’t teach that here.  

What is it about Jacq, Snowy and Sarah that makes them successful early adopters and what is that they do to get all of us adopting too. I’ve boiled it down to three things: why, try and talk.

Why – early adopters get the why. They get why this thing is important, what problems it will solve, and what change it will bring. They are onboard with the benefits before the rest of us have even realized we have a problem to solve in the first place. Jacq, Snowy and Sarah all knew that email, telephones and YouTube were going to change the way we communicate, and why that was so important in their worlds. In hindsight so do we, but would we have known at the time?

Try – early adopters try things out. They see it as an opportunity to play with something new. They try, experiment, test, learn, fail, ask for help, ideas and input, all until they get it right. They are curious and aren’t afraid. Remember, they are already sold on the why, so getting things to work for them is all part of solving for that why. It’s hard to imagine now, but imagine being Jacq, not really understanding how email worked and sending that first email to the Director. Or Snowy, investing his hard-earned cash in installing a telephone, when so few existed in country Victoria at the time. There is a willingness to try embedded deeply in this. Do you remember the first time you tried something?

Talk – early adopters talk about the thing they are adopting. They promote it, the push it, they play a big role in more and more people adopting it too. There is little point in being the only person to have a telephone or email, who are you going to contact? But with more people onboard, the bigger the thing becomes, the more problems are solved and the more change happens. My greatest memories of my grandfather are of him talking about his latest great idea to make the world a better place. Sarah sends me her latest great discovery all the time (clipisode is the latest, if you were wondering). But more than that, Sarah helps others get onboard too.  In the last school holidays Sarah ran workshops teaching people livestreaming, coding, cybersecurity and more. 

The key to how you too can be an early adopter…… why, try and talk.  

What are you going to adopt early next? 

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