While most people will remember the summer of 2012 as that special time when the Olympics came to Great Britain mine will also be remembered as the summer of writing that dissertation. With a 40,000 masters thesis to write I had to be tactical in my approach to fitting in Mo going for gold with reading, highlighting and writing.
So what did the summer of 2012 teach me which I feel is worth sharing? As well as learning that Great Britain are actually pretty decent a building rowing and cycling machines who can win gold after gold I also learned about what makes some innovations successfully come to market and get traction where as some just fall in to the black hole never to be remembered again.
Although this insight came from a number of sources the biggest influencer was the landmark text "The Diffusion of Innovation" written by Everett Rogers in 1963. It highlighted the importance of several key criteria that enable many innovations to come to fruition while others die. With the text as relevant today as it was all those years ago I thought it would be useful to share the key takeaways.
So what is it that makes some innovations diffuse while others fail?
1. Relative Advantage - People won't use some thing if its not going to add value to their life in some way. If your innovation offers an advantage compared to other competitors or substitutes then that’s a good starting place! Check the iPhone for a great example. It blew the competition out of the water when it was first launched in 2007 with numerous advantages over the competition.
2. Compatibility - How easy is it going to be to fit the innovation into some ones life? The Sinclair C5 was a prime example of doing this badly this. Frank Sinclair decided to reinvent the motorcar with his little electric car come bike. The only problem was that it was completely impractical. It had no roof, its battery ran out, and it was vulnerable to getting run over by larger vehicles. It just wasn't compatible with how people travelled and therefore like lots of other innovations, died.
3. Complexity or Simplicity - Adopting a new innovation takes a change of behaviour from some one. If they don't "get it" pretty quick or its too complex to use its quite likely they won't persevere for too long! Facebook did a great job of this when entering the already saturated industry of social networks. What they did very well was make a standardised product that was intuitive and simple to use.
4. Trialability - People like to try before they commit. People don't like change at the best of times. So the idea of changing to some thing that potentially does not satisfy their current way of doing things is a risk. Lots of the big software providers such as Spotify offer 30 day free trial before the consumer has to commit to the full purchase, and this works to great success.
5. Observability - People often like to see the tangible benefits of a new innovation before they commit. When Sony introduced the Walkman in the 1980's there was genuine concern within the senior management team that this new innovation wasn't compatible with current trends for listening to music. To overcome this concern Sony employed trendy actors to walk the streets of Tokyo wearing the Walkman and the headphones. By making the innovation clearly observable by key influencers (trendy people) the innovation soon caught on and the rest is history.