Getting to the tipping point in organisational change

There are many ‘change management’ theories that illuminate different aspects of organisation change. Lewin’s Freeze Theory, the Kübler-Ross Change Curve, Kotter’s 8-Step Model… to name just a few.

But are there any other models that you can use to help plan for change? We think so. One that we’ve found really useful is Everett Rogers’ Law of Diffusion of Innovation.

The Law of Diffusion of Innovation is more commonly used in the field of marketing. It maps out the likely behaviours of groups of potential buyers when a new product is introduced. It details five stages along a typical behavioural spectrum – the Innovators, the Early Adopters, the Early Majority, the Late Majority, and the Laggards.

At one end of the spectrum, the Innovators and Early Adopters are characterised by their enthusiasm and desire to buy in early.  And at the other end we find the Laggards, who’ll naturally resist buying in until it is no longer possible (for example, when the old product is no longer available and they have no choice but to buy the new one).

By now, I’m sure you’ll be starting to see the links with organisational change?

If you’ve ever been involved in an organisational change project, it’s likely you’ll have discovered that there are some people who’ll jump at the chance for change and support it without much persuasion (the Innovators and Early Adopters).  And of course, there’ll be those who’ll resist it, clinging on to the old ways until the last possible moment (the Laggards). The biggest opportunity for an organisational change leader to inspire support for the change comes not from focusing efforts on the Laggards. It might seem logical that if you manage to convince the biggest resisters, you’ll be home and dry.  However, doing this will take a lot of effort that might not bear any fruit. This effort would be better focused on the Early Majority.

It is easier to get the Early Majority over the line because all they desire is a clear sense of the benefits of changing. They’ll be watching the Innovators and Early Adopters with interest. Not with a view to resisting, but with a view to conforming. They’ll be waiting for the moment when they can see clearly what’s in it for them. And once the Early Majority embrace the change, you reach that wonderful tipping point, where more than 50% of the people are in the ‘new world’. Soon the Late Majority will join in – as they don’t want to be left behind.

And the Laggards? Well – they’ll either conform as their choices narrow, or they may well leave the business if they really don’t want to live in the new world.

So the big question is – how do you win over the Early Majority? It’s simple. Don’t just communicate the change, communicate the why.

If people are only told what will happen, and how, there’s less chance that they’ll emotionally connect with it. This increases their propensity to resist the change. But if they’re told why it’s happening and of the benefits it will bring to them, they’ll be much more likely to buy in.

So understanding the Law of Diffusion of Innovation can be a very helpful way of thinking about the way you communicate organisational change and when, reminding you to avoid attempting to focus on the people resisting it the most and instead work with the natural flow of acceptance.

PRINT® is a useful tool which gives insight into people’s Unconscious Motivators® and the reasons why they might resist change. We all have unique (unconscious) reasons why we might be averse to change – and PRINT® enables you to identify and overcome these positively and successfully.


For more information on how PRINT® could benefit yourself or your organisation, email, visit our website and social media (Facebook: @discoveryourprint, Twitter: @Discover_Print, LinkedIn: Print Profile Ltd) or sign up to our mailing list. If you’d like to bring PRINT’s benefits to organisations and businesses, we offer Accreditation courses enabling in-house coaches and learning & development professionals to become certified PRINT® coaches.