Many of you must have seen the video by Derek Sivers: How to start a movement, in that particular video the concept of first follower was explained which lead me to studying more on the Diffusion Theory of Innovation.

Diffusion research examines how ideas are spread among groups of people.  Diffusion goes beyond the two-step flow theory, centring on the conditions that increase or decrease the likelihood that an innovation, a new idea, product or practice, will be adopted by members of a given culture.  In multi-step diffusion, the opinion leader still exerts a large influence on the behaviour of individuals, called adopters, but there are also other intermediaries between the media and the audience’s decision-making.  One intermediary is the change agent, someone who encourages an opinion leader to adopt or reject an innovation (Infante, Rancer, & Womack, 1997).

What you must put at the back of your mind when creating innovation for social good or any other concept is that, Innovations are not adopted by all individuals in a social system at the same time.  Instead, they tend to adopt in a time sequence, and can be classified into adopter categories based upon how long it takes for them to begin using the new idea.  Practically speaking, it’s very useful for a change agent to be able to identify which category certain individuals belong to, since the short-term goal of most change agents is to facilitate the adoption of an innovation.  Adoption of a new idea is caused by human interaction through interpersonal networks.  If the initial adopter of an innovation discusses it with two members of a given social system, and these two become adopters who pass the innovation along to two peers, and so on, the resulting distribution follows a binomial expansion.  Expect adopter distributions to follow a bell-shaped curve over time (Rogers, 1971).

This is where discipline of leadership excellence comes in, a takes a great leader to envision and see the early adopters of the innovation he is creating. The leader must.


Early Adopters

Early adopters tend to be integrated into the local social system more than innovators.  The early adopters are considered to be localities, versus the cosmopolite innovators.  People in the early adopter category seem to have the greatest degree of opinion leadership in most social systems.  They provide advice and information sought by other adopters about an innovation.  Change agents will seek out early adopters to help speed the diffusion process.  The early adopter is usually respected by his or her peers and has a reputation for successful and discrete use of new ideas (Rogers, 1971). If you are starting any movement you are the 2.5%, you must identify your early adopters, they are your first followers who will create the buzz for your movement, remember everybody is not going to accept your innovation, we have onlookers, who are just waiting to see if you will succeed or fail. They are the early majority and the late majority.

Early Majority

Members of the early majority category will adopt new ideas just before the average member of a social system.  They interact frequently with peers, but are not often found holding leadership positions.  As the link between very early adopters and people late to adopt, early majority adopters play an important part in the diffusion process.  Their innovation-decision time is relatively longer than innovators and early adopters, since they deliberate some time before completely adopting a new idea.  Seldom leading, early majority adopters willingly follow in adopting innovations (Rogers, 1971).


Late Majority

The late majority are a sceptical group, adopting new ideas just after the average member of a social system.  Their adoption may be borne out of economic necessity and in response to increasing social pressure.  They are cautious about innovations, and are reluctant to adopt until most others in their social system do so first.  An innovation must definitely have the weight of system norms behind it to convince the late majority.  While they may be persuaded about the utility of an innovation, there must be strong pressure from peers to adopt (Rogers, 1971).


The Laggards

The last 16% in the distribution curve (Laggards) are traditionalists and the last to adopt an innovation.  Possessing almost no opinion leadership, laggards are localite to the point of being isolates compared to the other adopter categories.  They are fixated on the past, and all decisions must be made in terms of previous generations.  Individual laggards mainly interact with other traditionalists.  An innovation finally adopted by a laggard may already be rendered obsolete by more recent ideas already in use by innovators.   Laggards are likely to be suspicious not only of innovations, but of innovators and change agents as well (Rogers, 1971).

For a change to take effect, you must ignore the noise in the market place, stay focus on your dreams and purpose of creating the innovative idea to effect social change. They key message here is you must identify your early adopters before anything else, your first followers can and will surely be your foot soldiers and strong advocate for your believes and principle. You must be building their capacity to ensure they see what is in it for them. Discover them through their Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threat (SWOT). The SWOT analysis gives you clear pictures on who you want to do what and when to make things happen for effective implementation of your innovation for social goods.