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How To Listen To Early Adopters Without Getting Distracted

I belong to a weird little group of people that think differently from most of you. It’s not just the ADD (although I suspect there’s more there than people realize). We go by many names: Early Adopters, Futurists, Trend Watchers, Disruptors, Change Agents, That Crazy Guy. The World is full of us. Social media and tech are crawling with us.

You probably have a few of us at your company right now. We fascinate most people because we have the ability to see things in a way. If I had to summarize what we do I’d say we’re really good at non-linear pattern recognition. We’re also very easily distracted, passionate and highly intelligent (if I do say so myself).

There’s a down side though.

We can tell you that something is going to be incredibly important but we usually can’t fully articulate why. We sometimes see patterns that we don’t understand but we know they’re important. Sometimes even when we can articulate why it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to regular people.

We’re not always right. We see things so far out that sometimes things change. Sometimes we don’t know all the pieces of the patterns we see. And sometimes we’re just wrong.

We can be very distracting. Because we see non-linear patterns we sometimes talk and write in a non-linear fashion. (Want a good example of this read this Robert Scoble post. Is it about his son being diagnosed with Autism, his many visits with startups, the changes in mobile technology, his 10th year of blogging or what?) We are usually more interested in what needs to change than sticking around to help with the change. Even when we’re right and can articulate the coming changes there is often more opportunity than there are resources to address the opportunities.

So how do you get the most out of us?

Bring us in at the right stageGeoffrey Moore of Crossing the Chasm fame wrote a follow up book a few years back called Dealing with Darwin: How Great Companies Innovate at Every Phase of Their Evolution. In it he calls out 4 quadrants and that each company and product progresses through during its life cycle. Early adopters are best at the first quadrant but need to learn to transition products into the second quadrant. From there find a new project for them to work on or you’ll quickly lose them.

Triangulate your input: You don’t need a lot of early adopters but you need more than one. You may even only employ one but you should have a few whose blogs you read or friends you can call to pick their brains. You need to be able to weed out the crazy ideas from the great ones.

Know your strategy: And of course I will tell you that this is the most important. There’s a lot of opportunity out there and you can’t chase it all. Make sure you know what you will do and what you won’t do. Make sure your early adopters know what your strategy is too. This helps them focus their efforts and helps them know what kind of feedback they need to bring to you and what they shouldn’t distract you with.

And to my early adopter friends I’d simply tell you:

  • Be passionate but be patient. You’re early so there’s usually time.
  • Learn to articulate your thoughts. Great ideas don’t mean crap if no one understands them.
  • There’s more than one chance to get things right. If it doesn’t catch the first time, try and try again.

Photo credit bVenn Diagram

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About Tac

Social media anthropologist. Communications strategist. Business model junkie. Chief blogger here at New Comm Biz.

  • Mike Jones

    I like Moore’s core / context framework as well. We use it here to explain to business people how application software evolves and have found it useful to get them to understand the trade offs of building custom applications vs purchasing packages, why SOA is important, etc. We are working on some management level videos on the topic right now. If you are interested let me know and I will share them when ready.

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com/how-to-get-people-to-listen-to-you-when-youre-an-early-adopter/ How To Get People To Listen To You When You’re An Early Adopter | New Comm Biz

    [...] post, How To Listen To Early Adopters Without Getting Distracted, hit a nerve with people (in a good way). I didn’t get a lot of comments on the blog but I [...]

  • http://www.victusspiritus.com/ Mark Essel

    Fun post Tac, it’s good to see some thoughts about where “crazy people” or early adopters can best contribute. Thanks to Mahendra for resharing the follow on :) , I missed your buzz of it.

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com/you-dont-have-to-be-crazy-to-work-in-social-media-but-it-helps/ You Don’t Have To Be Crazy To Work In Social Media But It Helps | New Comm Biz

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