Understanding Rogers Adoption Curve

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The technology adoption lifecycle is a sociological model developed by Joe Bohlen, George Beal and Everett Rogers at Iowa State University. They used earlier research conducted by Neal Gross and Bryce Ryan who had the purpose to track purchase patterns for new technology by farmers. It was transferred to a model to predict the adoption (and penetration) of new services, products and technologies using the graph called “Rogers adoption curve”. 

Rogers Adoption Curve shows how your employees typically adopt new technology in a different pace. Only a few people automatically start using a new collaboration platform (2,5%) just because it is there. The majority of your employees (81,5%) will however need different motivation, targeted per group. If you do not apply a well-thought-out change strategy, using Rogers Adoption Curve, you will meet resistance in many forms. I have experienced this resistance to new technology many times before: with PC’s CD-ROM drives (companies took them out because they thought employees would game all day); with the introduction of ‘the internet’ (companies wanted to shut down access); with email; mobile phones and with social media. In other words, resistance to change as a result of new technology is nothing new.

It is important to motivate each group in Rogers Adoption Curve differently, and appeal to their specific needs and communication styles.

With every technological change you see the same chronology of acceptance: a small group of Innovators easily and firstly participates in the change. But most people need a lot of time to change (Early Majority and Late Majority). These are the individuals and groups with increasing resistance, for example, having a lack of functionality in the new tool. The resistance this group shows is therefore very normal.

Silverside's Rogers Adoption Curve

Figure: Typical resistance per group in Rogers Adoption Curve


Follow Rogers Adoption Curve in your change strategy


The first usage lies heavily in the hands of ‘Innovators‘ (only representing 2.5% of any population). It is the first link to see if there is a possible market because of these brave people that are willing to try new products/services. Being one of the few to be actually using the new product/service, is the main reason for their adoption. They accept that new products/services often contain bugs/problems/hick-ups, but view these as an acceptable process. They are ideal to release early versions and participate in first testing. The opinion of an Innovator has a strong influence on the Early adopters.

Early adopters

The ‘Early adopters’ represent 13,5% of the population and are the most important target group. They are the bridge between Innovators and Early majority; combining a total of 50% of the total population. They can make or break the adoption gaps making an implementation successful or not. While Innovator’s advices are more driven by embracing change and new technology, the Early adopters primarily focus on practical advice and recommendations on things they find valuable. They also give more practical advice on flaws and issues which leads to a more assured adoption by the majority.

Early Majority

The ‘Early majority’ (34% of the population) is willing to try new concepts and technology when presented in an usable and practical form. They are open to the ideas and opinions of Early adopters and will give it a try. They do demand that the innovation is tested and that bugs and/or flaws will be solved in a certain (acceptable) time frame.

Late Majority

The ‘Late majority’ (also 34% of the population) is more sceptic than the Early majority. Only when they see success / benefits with their own eyes they are willing to accept change. When they are told to use new technology they will do so; but when bugs and/or flaws arise they will point out it was a wrong decision to make them so. The success in this group heavily relies on the acceptance of the Early majority and a good support process for problems.


The last group is the ‘Laggards’ (16%). They simply don’t get it and/or don’t want changes. They will only accept change if their old way is not possible any more (and they are creative in keeping old ways alive!). As long as paper and pencil are available we recommend not to focus on this group.

Typically, in any group during a talk, a workshop or training, you can tell by comments being made (often among each other) what type of person you are dealing with. What you see in the image is those typical remarks.



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