Who deserves the Superman cape – Opinion Leaders or Early Adopters?

I found Kadushin’s explanation of how opinion leaders tend not to be the early adopters quite interesting. Opinion leaders “tend to exemplify the norms of the groups to which they belong” and are the brokers and bridgers of new ideas and practices. Early adopters, on the other hand, are the “mavericks” who tend to run with an idea and prepare it for diffusion (p. 145).

I understand this better by looking back on a groupware software pilot I was a part of back in 2009. Originally piloted to about 30 users, word about its capabilities for connection and collaboration spread quickly, mostly through word of mouth through overlapping internal networks;  now over 8,000 users have been enabled. The early adopters seemed to have all the knowledge and information about the software and what it could do, and their enthusiasm for it was obvious. Adopters like project managers were visible proof of its effectiveness.

The groupware diffused quickly, and I believe the tipping point occurred when the opinion leaders transmitted the idea up the chain through formal executive meetings, and also through messages to others like themselves, e.g. colleagues over coffee, about how it would benefit the organization in productivity and cost (common sense and technical network terms).  It’s easier to spread from this vantage point of overlapping networks than from the techie’s smaller network in the basement.  This initiative is now an organization-wide project to put the infrastructure and implementation plan in place to support 60,000 users over the next 5 years.

So, though I would like to give the cape  to the early adopters for their antennae and ideas; in this case, the initiative may have been difficult to spread without the transmission efforts of opinion leaders.

4 responses to “Who deserves the Superman cape – Opinion Leaders or Early Adopters?

  • sea blue zed

    Great analogy – superman and the cape. When new process work well, and are adopted – everyone benefits at the organization.

  • Andrea

    I like your analogy Lenore. I’m just curious – what camp do you find yourself in for this program?

  • teresasturgess

    Great example Lenore, it sure pays to get the Opinion Leaders on side – even part of the development process!

  • lenoredelday

    Andrea, for this program I’m an opinion leader. Anything that leaves an impression or gets me thinking results in me sharing information and questions within my dense social network. Even though I adopted the network apps we discuss in Comm506, I needed reminding – rediffusion.I guess outside of MACT, I could become an early adopter in a different network. You, on the other hand, I would easily put into the Early Adopter camp. You are seen and heard spreading social ideas and opinions; ‘infecting’ the entire cohort – most definitely in a good way!

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