Category Archives: mactcohort2011

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.