Technology adoption life cycle

What is the technology adoption life cycle?

The technology adoption life cycle is a sociological model that describes the process of adoption of a new product or innovation. It is an extension of an earlier model known as the diffusion process, which was first published in 1957 by Joe M. Bohlen, George M. Beal and Everett M. Rogers for use in agriculture and home economics. Their original purpose was to monitor farmers’ purchase of hybrid seed corn. Later, Rogers generalized its application in his widely acclaimed 1962 book “Diffusion of Innovations” (now in its fifth edition), in which he described how new ideas and technologies diffuse across cultures.

The technology adoption life cycle.
The technology adoption life cycle.

Rogers contends that diffusion is the process by which an innovation is communicated among the participants of a social system over time. The model identifies “innovators” as the first group to utilize a new product, followed by “early adopters.” Next come the early majority and late majority, and the last group to eventually adopt a product are called “laggards” or “phobics.” Typically, the process of adoption over time is represented by a bell curve.

Rogers suggests that five primary factors influence the diffusion of a new idea: the innovation itself, adopters, communication channels, time, and a social system. This process heavily depends on social capital. To be self-sustaining, innovation must be broadly adopted.

Stages of the technology adoption life cycle

The technology adoption life cycle consists of five key adoption stages and attempts to describe and explain how consumers adopt new products and innovations. The five stages of the technology adoption life cycle are typically represented as a bell curve, with the area below the line representing the number of customers grouped according to their psychological preferences.

Innovators (2.5%)

Innovators are the first individuals to adopt an innovation. Innovators are willing to take risks, youngest in age, have the highest social class, have great financial lucidity, very social and have closest contact to scientific sources and interaction with other innovators. Risk tolerance has them adopting technologies which may ultimately fail. Financial resources help absorb these failures (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 282).

Early Adopters (13.5%)

This is the second fastest category of individuals who adopt an innovation. These individuals have the highest degree of opinion leadership among the other adopter categories. Early adopters are typically younger in age, have a higher social status, have more financial lucidity, advanced education, and are more socially forward than late adopters. More discrete in adoption choices than innovators. Realize judicious choice of adoption will help them maintain central communication position (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 283).

Early Majority (34%)

Individuals in this category adopt an innovation after a varying degree of time. This time of adoption is significantly longer than the innovators and early adopters. Early Majority tend to be slower in the adoption process, have above average social status, contact with early adopters, and seldom hold positions of opinion leadership in a system (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 283).

Late Majority (34%)

Individuals in this category will adopt an innovation after the average member of the society. These individuals approach an innovation with a high degree of skepticism and after the majority of society has adopted the innovation. Late Majority are typically skeptical about an innovation, have below average social status, very little financial lucidity, in contact with others in late majority and early majority, very little opinion leadership.

Laggards (16%)

Individuals in this category are the last to adopt an innovation. Unlike some of the previous categories, individuals in this category show little to no opinion leadership. These individuals typically have an aversion to change-agents and tend to be advanced in age. Laggards typically tend to be focused on “traditions”, likely to have lowest social status, lowest financial fluidity, be oldest of all other adopters, in contact with only family and close friends, very little to no opinion leadership.

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