Innovators are the early adapters

robert scoble google glassFor as long as I can remember, I’ve adopted new products and services when they are just starting out. It’s very common that I get requests to “try this and that” for startups looking for early adopters and beta testers. As such, my main objective in adopting products and services that are in beta is the following:

  • Staying updated on the latest stuff that doesn’t fit with the current reality;
  • I get a feel for what could be next on the horizon from another perspective;
  • How can begin to adapt it to the real world and what would I learn.

It’s rare that I come across other people who do the same, most adopt a new product or service only once it’s become part of the daily conversation. Unfortunately, the same applies to wannabe innovators…

This is the classic case of being an early adopter. But there is a distinction between adopter and adapter: innovator’s aren’t the early adopters, they are the early adapters.

As innovators, our main challenge is adoption: an idea turns into an innovation until it is adopted.

And the default state for all new and different ideas is “NO”. So, how can you work around and deal with the adoption challenge?

You can start by adopting your solution yourself and become an adapter. Here are a few ways:

Test drive it

Reading about the new stuff is not the same as taking it for a test drive. For example, take collaboration tools, I’ve used a large number of them such as Basecamp, Yammer, Trello, Asana, Zoho and others and believe they are entering a new phase of transformation. I don’t rely on just one to do all my work with teams who are located locally and remote; I use many.

And so far no combination of tools gets it entirely right, it is still very much a space where

So, if you believe the future of collaboration is a combination of video (Google Hangouts) and live sketching (Paper for iPad), then you have to test drive it yourself. It may seem like common sense, but I find myself scratching my head when I meet people who are supposedly “innovating” but they don’t walk the talk.

It’s very common for employees of technology companies to test drive the products and services they’ll launch to the market before actually doing so. Google does this religiously, it’s called eating your own dogfood. And it’s what they did with their almost defunct moonshot; Google Glass.

Model the behavior

True innovation creates new routines and behaviors. For example, if your vision is a future where we’ll do most of our work through our smartphones and tablets, not desktops and laptops; then you should be modeling that behavior on a routine basis.

This specific scenario will force you to act differently, which will stretch you out of your comfort zone and help you find out how you could make your solution more feasible.

There is an endless number of articles, blogs posts and books written by people who have modeled the behavior a new solution might bring about. Take an article about “spending a week without a wallet” and just using Apple Pay to pay for things on a daily basis. After going through the week-long experience, the author clearly find gaps between “what is” and “what could be”. I’ve no doubt Apple employees test drove Apple Pay at HQ before putting it in the hands of people.

No more physical meetings

Personally, this whole year I’ve done something similar to the examples above by doing without physical meetings even if I can physically be at a meeting. Why? Because I see a future where simple interactions, meetings and workshops through video will become close to the same as being physically in the same room. But, more interesting to me is what I can get from there interactions through video that I can’t get by being physically at a location.

In other words: what does video enable that physical interaction doesn’t?

Bottom line: As innovators, we have an exciting job – to create new worlds that are better for everyone. But the hard part is driving adoption for that reality to materialize. Though many great ideas, like Google Glass, will not be adopted by everyone, we have to be willing to try. To start, we have to practice what we preach and model the behavior the solution could potentially eliminate.