Updated: Sep 10, 2020
By G2L Unity CTO Andrew Barber
This week I want to look at “user adoption”. Why should anybody change the way they have done things for years just because there is now an option to do so? After all, as the saying goes, “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”. Are we all driving blindly down tunnels or is there a logical reason to change the way we do things?
My paternal grandfather was born in the September of 1909, and were he still living, would now be approaching his 110th birthday. Sadly he was taken from us when he was 104 but of course this doesn’t stop me from thinking about his life and all he experienced.
In 1910, Thomas Edison demonstrated the world’s first motion picture, and in 1911, for the first time, cars had electric ignitions. Believe it or not, it wasn’t until 1913 that the crossword puzzle was invented and women started to wear bras. I can’t even imagine how men spent their spare time before then.
By the time my granddad had reached his sixteenth birthday, canned beer was on the shelves. And within a few years, we had ballpoint pens. By the time he was my age, he had seen two world wars and the invention of jet engines, Teflon, atomic bombs, and microwave ovens.
He witnessed the birth of modern aviation, space travel, and computer technology – all while eating innovations in fast food and watching television.
These days, of course, we think nothing of frying our food in our Teflon coated frying pan or drinking a can of beer while watching a live football match from the other side of the planet. We take for granted our holidays in the sun and think nothing of the satellites that deliver entertainment to our front rooms. We complete crosswords with ballpoint pens, and we know nothing of air raids, ration books, or blackouts.
He lived through a truly historic era, a golden age of invention and scientific advance. I wonder how many inventions and events during my lifetime will – sixty years from now – be seen in quite the same light.
But of course invention is a continuous cycle, we are always reaching for something more and this drives us to be bigger, better, faster and stronger. In the past I have argued that with invention in mind, just because we can create something doesn’t necessarily always mean that we should. Indeed, just as I began this article, there is often some reasonable logic to be applied around the old saying “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”?
Not all inventions are useful but of course some are! Technology is a tool, something that we can use to make our days easier, our nights lighter and our our entertainment brighter. And once the genie is out of the bottle, usually it tends to stick around until we all simply capitulate and accept that it is here to stay.
So what is the tipping point? When do we all decide to start using the latest big thing? My experience is that in most “ingrained” industries, much as it is in life, the adoption is actually gradual. We don’t all wake up one morning and hit a switch, but in fact slowly over time, allow ourselves to be gently lead toward the light.
Over the years, through my involvement with technology, I have encountered a number of these revolutions – often slow, often painful but ultimately always ending with adoption across the majority of the user base.
I recall quite clearly when Electronic Data Capture was being adopted within the pharmaceutical industry as a means of monitoring drug study data. The FDA for one, were pretty resistant and the system validation that became a legal requirement as a result, was almost prohibitive. And yet just as the wheel became adopted as a modern technology, it was inevitable that at some stage “EDC” would become a standard means of capturing study data – and so it was!
So why ultimately, do we end up engaging with technologies we have never before needed and frankly, often do not want? Put simply, in an ingrained market, adoption is lead by a minority. These might be people looking for a new edge in the market or new comers who have not yet settled into the culture of their industry. Either way, it’s these earliest adopters that help to pioneer the evolution of new technology. It is their pain, their input and ultimately their success stories that help to build a platform that becomes more attractive and easier to use for the rest.
As those early adopters start to gain a market advantage, others are forced to follow suit (whether they want to or not) and what started as a trickle soon becomes a flood. It is inevitable because like it or not, when used as a tool that has been carefully milled and tested over time, technology can help users find better and more efficient ways of completing tasks. After all, we no longer light fires by banging together two pieces of flint and we don’t write documents using a quill.
But the adoption of new technology can be painful. If we already have a tried and tested system for example, we literally have to change the way we have been doing things, perhaps even for years. We have to learn a new methodology and adapt to new ways of thinking.
Then there is the none to small matter of choice – in coaching for example, there are literally dozens of platforms out there, all promising a shiny new interface and a flashy new way of doing things. How do you make a choice? What platform is the best fit for you?
Next time, I will write about how to compare platforms and make decisions and choices based on a best fit for your coaching practice. We will look at such things as support and co-operative interaction as well as taking a first glance at the different cliques and cultures that are springing upward as the result of these new technologies.