The Four stages Model of User Adoption

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‘’Adoption cannot be maintained. End users have to want to use the product, and will do so when they see a net benefit to them and their work.’’ Michael Idinopulos, Socialtext

This article is focused on presenting the Four Stages Model of User Adoption established by Michael Sampson. He is a Collaboration Strategist who advises end-user organizations worldwide on making collaboration work. Michael Sampson wrote seven books and presented workshops in 15 countries. He is the author of the book User Adoption Strategies (2012) where he wrote a chapter about The Four Stages Model of User Adoption. In the book he defines user adoption strategies as “the strategies that an organization can use to encourage people to start using a new collaboration technology”.

The four stages of Michael Sampson’s User Adoption Model:

1. Winning Attention
2. Cultivating Basic Concepts
3. Enlivening Applicability
4. Making it Real

In order to explain these phases, the author uses a User Adoption Approach around Yammer.


In Stage 1 you must win the attention of second wave people (explain who are these people). By their nature, second wave people have quite a little interest in product features and benefits stated within the context of product features. Something else is necessary, and in this first stage, there are various strategies that can be used effectively to win attention. Let’s give an example:  a common way to win attention is to show how Yammer can help particular groups to become more effective and efficient.

In the second stage, having won their attention, you have to communicate their basic concepts of the new technology. Michael Sampson claims that second wave people need to understand a few core concepts about the new technology, in order to have a reasonable discussion about how it could be applied to their work in later stages. For example, understanding the basic idea of a hashtag in Yammer is essential to understand how Yammer could be applied within a workgroup for project tracking, or in a community of interest for sharing and discussing current topics.

In Stage 3, the focus shifts from explaining the basic concepts to bringing the applicability of the new approach to life. During this stage, the applicability of the new technology is explored within the context of a particular group or a team, and there are various strategies which can be used to do so. Let’s continue the example with Yammer: a ‘’Facilitated Group Re-imagining’’ session could be set up with a group to explore how they currently keep other people up-to-date with what they are working on.

Finally, the Stage 4, is where the efforts to make the new collaboration technology real and relevant has to become a reality. For a group that decides to use Yammer, this is the stage where alternative ways of keeping other people up-to-date are physically removed (‘’Zero Other Options’’) or socially frowned on (‘’Stop Doing, Start Doing Patterns’’).

To understand why people have a different reaction to changes within your organization, read the article Rogers Adoption Curve helps you understand your employees.