In 1991, Geoffrey A Moore famously wrote about the so-called Adoption Chasm in Everett M Rogers’ 1962 Technology Adoption Lifecycle. This chasm represents the leap in adoption that new technologies must make in order to progress from a small minority of keen early adopters to a much more mainstream acceptance (the early majority).
Like any other technology, intranets in the modern workplace also face an adoption chasm. In order to approach this problem, it has been suggested (Aaron Kim, 2013) that we map Maslow’s 1943 Hierarchy of Needs onto the technology adoption lifecycle. This leads to some very interesting insights into how basic, instinctive human behaviour can be leveraged in order to maximise the adoption of a new intranet venture.
Why so many intranets fail
So you have just launched a brand new site. All the bells and whistles are there. Every feature that you could possibly implement. Everything that your research said that anybody could possibly want to do. Plus a few extra cool things that you once saw at a conference.
The first few days look good. Lots of people are logging on. Usage statistics are going up. Hopes are high that before long, this site will be the buzzing information and social hub of the company.
But after a week or two the usage stats start to level off, and after a month they have reduced significantly from their glorious peak back down to a slow trickle. By your first bi-annual review, the usage hasn’t really picked up at all, and you are left scratching your head to figure out where to go from here.
So what just happened? Well, clearly the launch of a new intranet, or feature within an existing intranet, will be accompanied by a spike in usage. This is quite normal, but it is how the curve behaves after this initial peak that will govern your site’s adoption in the mid-term and beyond.
This is where Everett M Rogers’ Technology Adoption Lifecycle comes in. in 1962, Rogers postulated that any new technology will follow a loosely similar adoption pattern, based on different groups of people with different attitudes toward new technologies:
The Enthusiasts, Visionaries, Pragmatists, Conservatives and Sceptics.
The Adoption Chasm
During the first week or two of launch, we had the Enthusiasts, the Visionaries, the Pragmatists and perhaps even the Conservatives show a bit of interest. The Enthusiasts and the Visionaries logged on, saw some cool features that they liked, they set up their profile, added all their colleagues to their contacts list and started eagerly imagining how this new site could fit into their day-to-day jobs.
The Pragmatists logged on and saw a site packed full of features, assumed that their intended use will become apparent over time and then logged off, awaiting a time when they would be required to log back on.
The Conservatives may have logged on, seen a site full of stuff they don’t really see the point of, and logged off again, hoping that they would not need to give up their existing, comfortable routines.
After the first week or two of launch, the only people left using the site are the Enthusiasts and the Visionaries.
This pattern of behaviour was first identified by Geoffrey A Moore in 1991, and he called it the Adoption Chasm.
Let us take for granted that the launch of any new intranet will be accompanied by a peak in usage. Let's then focus on the usage pattern after this initial peak. If usage remains nothing more than a slow trickle of Enthusiasts and Visionaries, you have failed to engage the Pragmatists and Conservatives and have fallen foul of the adoption chasm.
So how can we stop this from happening? How can we turn our usage graph into this instead?
We will need to Bridge the Adoption Chasm – we need to find a way of engaging the Pragmatists and the Conservatives.
Follow the SMLWRLD Engagement series as we discuss the fundamentals of Bridging the Adoption Chasm