Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The psychology of early adopters

Popularising ridesharing: who will be the early adopters?
My research topic for the day is the psychology of early adopters. Given that my goal is to make ridesharing (carpooling) popular again, I need to work out which subset of society is most likely to be interested in ridesharing and tailor the message towards them. If we market to everyone, we will attract no-one. Once we have built up a userbase of early adopters, we can start branching out from there.

What makes early adopters different from the rest of the population?
I have a pet theory that early adopters are a special class of people. It doesn't matter what kind of innovation we're talking about, whether it's iPhones or ridesharing, I reckon there's a subset of the population who will jump on it, no questions asked. The rationale for this little theory is that I love new experiences and I don't want to believe that I'm the only one who suffers from this form of insanity:P

A case study: me
Let's take a trip inside my head and analyse the psychological makeup of an early adopter. Here are some factors that contribute to my willingness to pick up an idea and run with it:

1. Extraversion: I find I'm often aware of new ideas before other people. This is because I talk to a lot of people and get lots of new ideas from what they're doing. I must admit that sometimes the reason why I do something new is because I like the idea of being able to tell other people:P Thinking about it a bit more, extraversion in itself is a form of risk seeking behaviour - getting to know other people involves the risk of rejection. It's definitely not a social strategy for the timid.

2. Caffeine consumption: Oftentimes, being an early adopter is a stupid decision. You play with stuff or experiences that are only half-baked. Personally, I can trace many of my mistakes back to having consumed too much coffee that morning, which renders me liable to skip over the details and analysis and naively assume that everything will be ok.

3. A love of extremes: I am a sensationalist. I like pushing myself to the limit (e.g. in ultramarathons and hackathons). It's a part of my identity that I cultivate. I like phrases like "bleeding edge" and "avant garde" because it reminds me that picking up something new is operating at the extremes.

4. A love of experiential learning: I'm obsessed with learning new things and my preferred learning style is through direct experience.

5. Lack of knowledge: As with caffeine consumption, a lot of the stupid mistakes I've made (e.g. paying $400 for a web browser as part of a network marketing business!) have been through lack of knowledge.

6. Perpetual optimism: When I was experiencing low level depression during my teenage years I was definitely not an early adopter. I was scared and inward focused and rather conservative. Minor setbacks would slam me into a spiral of self doubt and I was very risk adverse. My growing optimism in recent years has meant that I no longer get so uptight when things go poorly and I bounce back quickly from failures.

7. Self identification as an early adopter: When I started the School for Social Entrepreneurs, I introduced myself as follows: "Hi I'm Jeremy, and I like to always go first".

What does the literature say?
Find out in my subsequent post:
"Is the such thing as an innate innovator?"

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