Chasm, What Chasm? Three Trends Collapsing the Technology Adoption Lifecycle
I’ve been wondering a lot lately about the Technology Adoption Lifecycle and Geoffry Moore’s classic Crossing the Chasm. I believe that we are seeing the Chasm obliterated by technology and cultural changes. I see three inter-related trends that are driving this collapse, none of these in and of themselves will surprise any readers, but I think when taken together, there is a compelling argument that the Chasm is collapsing, and smart marketers can speed time to adoption by understanding this dynamic. These trends are 1) The consumerization of technology and its impact on the speed of diffusion 2) the commoditization of the creation and distribution of content and 3) the lower barriers and risks of technology solution adoption.
Before I continue, I do want to note that Crossing the Chasm might be the most dog-eared book in my fairly extensive marketing library. It is a CLASSIC, and has guided much of my thought and practice of marketing over the last 2 decades. It still has tremendous value and incredible teaching and learning in it. The concepts of bowling pins, whole product and positioning are beyond their worth in gold. End of story.
But, I think we need to take a hard look at the chasm today. On page xi of his revised edition of 1999, Moore states: “The Chasm Model itself represents a pattern in market development that is based on the tendency of pragmatic people to adopt new technology when they see other people like them doing the same. This causes them to band together as a group, and the groups initial reaction, like teenagers at a junior high dance, is to hesitate and watch.” Let’s take a little time and dissect this statement.
1) “the tendency of pragmatic people to adopt new technology when they see other people like them doing the same” – Since the Chasm was “discovered” by Moore, technology has infiltrated our lives, as Marc Andreessen says, “software is eating the world.” Early adopters now surround everyone, kids and consumers often lead the way. In addition, the technology continues to get hidden behind better and better and easier and easier user experience. Today’s professionals are more comfortable with and better and faster adopters of technology. From the secretary, to the CEO, from the line worker to the general manager, adoption patterns have compressed and changed. CIOs and Business Managers who wait for “the mainstream” to adopt a solution will quickly find themselves in the late
majority, falling behind competitors.
2) “… This causes them to band together as a group” – Which group? How many affiliations do you have on Linkedin? How many communities do you belong to? What technology did the PTA just adopt that has you thinking, boy, why aren’t we doing that? It used to be information was held by vendors. Customers and buyers depended on information brokers, such as Gartner, IDC and others to get aggregated views of this information. Now they can go to Quora, or LinkedIn, or just plain Google. Vendors now invest FORTUNES in content creation and distribution, because they must inform buyers now, or lose to competitors who do. The group of peers has expanded dramatically and the information available to these groups has become free, available and subject to peer review. One of the main reasons the group effect put brakes on mainstream adoption was the difficulty of obtaining and evaluating vendor claims. We’ve entered the era of transparency and visibility, where the early adopters can more effectively share and make their informed views and experiences real to the mainstream.
3) “…and the groups initial reaction, like teenagers at a junior high dance, is to hesitate and watch” The new reaction is to try at small scale, fail and scale successes. The speed and cost dynamics of the cloud have fundamentally changed the economics of trial and the risk of failure. The risk and fear of failure is now lower than the odds of success and upside.
I still believe in vertical marketing, I still believe in delivering whole products, I still believe in the power of positioning, but I believe the Chasm is closing and will continue to do so. I hope this posts is controversial, and creates a discussion, I expect it will do so! What do you think???