Three things I’ve learned about change-making

In my first year at Mulgrave we:

  1. completely refreshed our printer fleet and moved to a 100% networked print management environment
  2. completed an 1:1 iPad pilot with about 60 Grade 3 students
  3. set up an 1:1 iPad program for Grade 3 through Grade 6 students for September 2012
  4. set up a BYOD program form Grade 7 students for September 2012
  5. set up the school on Google Apps for Education

…a lot of innovation, a lot of change for a school with an historically conservative habit with educational technology.

I’ve learned a couple things watching how people react to innovation and change in general.

Mind the gap.

There are five kinds of people, distributed under a normal curve, called the Innovation Adoption Curve, as shown above. The methods you use to appeal to one group won’t work for the next group to their right. Also, there is a significant gap between Early Adopters and pragmatists. It’s easy to reach the first two groups; indeed, they pretty much lead themselves. Crossing over that gap is a big step up in leadership.

By the way, everyone gets invited to the party. Each group has a critical role to play in making the change successful so all groups must be valued equally important. Without the institutional knowledge and sober second thoughts of the Conservative and Sceptics, the Innovators and Early Adopters would have everyone chasing fads. And vice versa: without the Innovators nothing would ever move forward. New education is now an emergent culture and all five groups are needed to make it successful.

Change takes time. Time takes patience.

The adoption curve seems to be about 4 – 5 years wide. A couple days ago I came across this great post by David Truss in which he contemplates the blurring lines between his off- and online lives and generates a fair bit of mainstream commentary around his reflection. I remember having a similar conversation at Northern Voice two years ago. I mean no value judgement–only to say that that conversation started two years ago. I think I’m making reasonable assumptions in slotting in Northern Voice as a forum for innovators and early adopters and and the Truss commentary as forum for more pragmatic sorts. The time lag suggests to me that it wil be another two years before the sceptics have come to terms with the blurring social lines. I think this pace holds constant for all innovations.

(As an aside, I never could understand why anyone ever thought those two things were separate. Even though we temporarily suspend disbelief, we really have no doubt it is an actor and not a real Jacques who says, “All the world’s a stage, And the men and women merely players…” I don’t know that I ever made a distinction between my life as a teenager on the telephone and my life as a teenager hanging out in the school parkling lot, either. But that wonderful scene in Downton Abbey when the telephone is installed suggests that Bell’s device in its day was similarly confusing.)


The adoption curve is static.

This has important implications: it means that the curves always exists, that there will always be innovators and always be sceptics and always be those in between. As I said above, all groups are needed to make a successful change. Note how different that is to saying all groups need to change. The leader’s job is not to make sceptics into early adopters. That, in fact, would be counter-productive and unhealthy for the individual as well as the organization. The leader’s job is to move the whole curve forward. (Actually, the leader is moving the innovations through the whole oprganization. It just looks like the curve moves.)


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    […] learned today that part of my frustration is because I’m an "early adopter". It’s weird though, because I didn’t have to read it to know it, and I don’t mean […]

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