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Monday, May 01, 2006

Technology and Relationships: An all encompassing model

Back from a big weekend, I wanted to start out the week in a big way. So, here is my deep thought for the week.

I went to a lecture today by my friend Gary Thuerk (a.k.a. the father of Spam) on the anniversary of the first spam ever sent about creativity and disruptive technologies.

He brought to light an interesting fact that new technology in the marketplace follows a bell curve pattern. The image below represents the progression.

Take the Compact Disc for example.

R&D - At some point, some company was doing research on how to advance music and or data storage. No one was buying because there was nothing on the market. It was locked away in some research laboratory somewhere.

Early Acceptors - The new technology is released and the first people began buying it. But remember back to the late 80's. Not everyone could afford it, or wanted to pay $15 for the same music they could get for $10 on cassette. Only those who accepted the new technology early on were out buying CD's

Acceptors - Much later in the mid 90's almost everyone was buying CD's and very few bought cassettes any more.

Followers - Finally at the end of the 90's cassettes were almost impossible to find and those skeptics who couldn't find cassettes were almost forced to follow the trend and buy CD's. They followed for reasons varying from ridicule to peer pressure to a late stage enlightenment.

During the first two stages, R&D and Early Acceptance, there is little or now profit and much investment. As time progresses and Acceptance and Following occurs, investment decreases as profit increases.

Now consider this - My deep thought for the week: Technology follows this, but so do many other things such as fashion, trends, religion and even relationships.

For example, you meet someone new. Perhaps they move to the area and someone in your circle of friends introduces them to the group. At the beginning there is an R&D period. You inquire about them, ask questions about where they came from, what they do, hobbies, etc. You even compare notes with other circle members about their opinions. Then the new person transitions into early acceptance. During this time there is a high level of investment or perhaps call it risk because you are going under the same R&D by the new person.

At some point a few people jump right in and welcome the new person to the group. They give early acceptance. Risk is still fairly high because not everything is known about the person. You only have their word that they are a good person, not an observance of them being good over a long period of time. However profit begins to come in because you now have the potential to have the benefits of friendship.

Then as the individual progresses across the curve, they become largely accepted by the group and finally the last of the skeptics follow suit and accepts them.

So if this is true for almost every situation, what and how are we doing to manage our relationships, our businesses, our life in this progression? When a new person visits your place of business, do you invest / risk without profit or do you wait to follow after they prove themselves worthy of what little risk is left to manage?