Persuasion Head ShotIII

Drive Adoption with the Power of Persuasion


This is the third article in the series “Innovation Without Adoption Is Simply an Academic Exercise.”

Once your target audiences are aware of and understand your innovation, the second of the five adoption stages is “persuasion.” This is the stage at which you can really begin to accelerate the pace and breadth of adoption.

Dr. Everett M. Rogers states in his book Diffusion of Innovations, “…it is at the persuasion stage that a general perception of the innovation is developed.” That perception includes the formation of a favorable or unfavorable attitude toward your innovation, with attitude being a key differentiator between the first and second stage. According to Dr. Rogers, “Whereas the mental activity at the knowledge stage was mainly cognitive (or knowing), the main type of thinking at the persuasion stage is affective (or feeling).”

Understanding that difference and its importance are instrumental in your ability to accelerate adoption. The persuasion stage is when the audiences begin to think about how they might apply an innovation to their needs and circumstances. Audiences become engaged, seek out additional information and decide what information is credible and applies to them specifically.

Persuasion begins with clearly articulating a compelling motivation that would drive someone to adopt an innovation. These may be positive motivators, such as money or prestige in the form of recognition, promotion or publicity. There are also negative motivators, such as the fear of falling behind. Keep in mind that while you are often trying to get a company to adopt your innovation, the decision to adopt it will always be made by people. Therefore, the motivation must be geared toward individuals.

The motivators that will have the greatest impact for each audience member are typically identified in the upfront qualitative research discussed in an earlier article. Gaining those insights is not always easy, but when done well, it can yield significant results. The better tailored the motivation is to each audience, the greater the opportunity to accelerate adoption.

In many past adoption initiatives, I have identified different motivators for different roles in the organization, as well as different organizational levels. Senior executives are often motivated by innovations that will help their company succeed, bringing them personal recognition or additional compensation in the form of a raise or bonus. Junior staff may not have the same incentive structure. While they may be motivated by helping the company succeed, a stronger motivator might be reduced workload.

I also find that the motivators typically differ by role as well. What motivates someone focused on logistics may not be as powerful for someone who works on the factory floor. As you’ll see in future articles, this motivation must be strong enough to offset any barriers to change, which means that the better you can tailor the message to each audience, the better chance you have.

Once you have nailed down the motivators, the challenge is conveying the message. You could use mass customized communications to reach many audiences with tailored messages. Unfortunately, this isn’t as effective in the persuasion stage of adoption as it is in the knowledge stage.

The reason is that the audiences are seeking social reinforcement from their peers of the innovation’s value. As innovations increase in complexity, cost or risk, the need for peer acceptance grows. In this case, a peer is not only a match in role and organizational level, but also in attitudes and experience.

There are a number of means to convey peer acceptance, with some more powerful than others. The trade-off is that the more powerful means may be the more costly or time-consuming. What is needed is a balanced approach, driven by your budget and adoption objectives. We’ll discuss that and more about the persuasion stage in the next article.

Chris Peters is the CEO of The Lucrum Group, an Annapolis-based consultancy focused on enabling the advanced manufacturing enterprise. Chris has developed manufacturing supply chain hubs in more than 20 industries worldwide. Much of that success was based on the ability to drive and accelerate adoption. His work has been documented in several books and in publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal to BusinessWeek and IndustryWeek.