Nearly everyone involved in a technology business that sells to a wide array of customers has seen the depiction of the standard “adoption curve” first theorized by Everett Rogers in the 1960s. (Here’s a picture of it from Wikipedia). Modern re-interpretations have included Geoffrey Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm”, where the ‘early adopter’ and the ‘early majority’ stages are difficult to bridge, and other sociological and game-theory models that collectively strain the brain.
To me, the weirdest aspect of the adoption curve was that is was based on a previous study of, get this, a diffusion of farming practices into rural America. That study was written in 1957 by two agricultural researchers named George Beal and Joe Bohlen (available here). It defines the various stages of adoption of ideas into a marketplace or culture as discrete and linear in their progression: awareness, interest, evaluation, trial, and adoption.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Beal and Bohlen designate the first three stages above (awareness, interest and evaluation) as purely mental. As in, the potential customer or user is thinking about the possible idea, solution or product. No actions yet, just the thought process of how the idea could work in the user’s environment. This activity of getting through the first three stages takes quite a while. To quote from the study,
“Apparently individuals need to test a new idea even though they have thought about it for a long time and have gathered information concerning it.”
Matthew Scott is the Deputy CTO for the South Enterprise region at NetApp. His focus is to match NetApp’s vision and products to the business directions of his customers. He works with the largest customers in the region to design complex architectures and outline new methods for customers to use data wherever it lives. Matthew has spent over 25 years in the high-performance technical and computing space, the last 15 with NetApp.