by Bob Zaruta, President/CEO, NWIRC

Technology is advancing at lightning speed. It’s hard enough to keep track of the newest versions of computers, cell phones, smart home technology, and software for personal use, let alone innovations in advanced manufacturing technology. If you are knowledgeable on the latest technology that would benefit your company…are you an adopter?

Everett Rogers wrote the book, Diffusion of Innovations, back in 1962 and his concept of a technology adoption bell-curve is still very relevant today. He describes five categories of adopters, here’s a synopsis of each (Rogers 1962, p.282-283):

Innovators (2.5%)- the first to adopt innovation, takes risks, younger age, financial liquidity

Early Adopters (13.5%)- high degree of opinion leadership at an organization, advanced education, socially forward

Early Majority (34%)- adoption after varying degree of time, above average social status, seldom holds positions of opinion leadership

Late Majority (34%)- adoption after the average participant, approach with high degree of skepticism after majority, lower social status

Laggards (16%)- last to adopt innovation, no opinion leadership, focused on ‘traditions’, lowest social status, and low financial liquidity.

These categories have generalized characteristics, but how would you categorize yourself? What type of technology adopter are you in your personal life, and does this converge with technology advances within your company?

In his book, Rogers also outlines five stages of the innovation adoption process. While the names of these stages have changed over the years, initially they were 1) awareness, 2) interest, 3) evaluation, 4) trial, and 5) adoption. Learning and working through these stages may help ‘up’ your adoption level. This becomes even more important today, during this 4th industrial revolution (aka Industry 4.0). The advances are coming at us faster than ever before and when it comes to technology, the gap among generations is also becoming wider. Many of us probably have both laggards and innovators in our lives- parents set in their ways and letting technology pass them by and children or grandchildren light-years beyond our own capabilities. The same may be true regarding diversity of employees within your company.

For 30 years, the Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Centers, such as NWIRC, have been helping small to mid-sized manufacturers evaluate and implement programs and technology in order to stay competitive. Creating a roadmap to keep your company moving forward and capitalize on technology that makes sense for your business is key. First steps can be making a commitment for your company to stay ahead of the bell-curve and nurturing generational diversity to help you stay on course so technological advances don’t pass you by.