Home Marketing Best Practices The Diffusion of Innovation: A Coaching Framework

The Diffusion of Innovation: A Coaching Framework

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What about those folks who remain back home? They won’t move West under any conditions. They can’t be convinced, bribed or cajoled. In many instances, they are actively engaged in efforts to discourage the wide-spread adoption of an innovation. They might be silent at first; however, once the innovation begins to pick up steam and threatens to be accepted by the Early Majority, they may become quite vocal. In many instances, the objections of the Laggard to professional coaching can be attributed to their differing perspective regarding this innovation. They view professional coaching as representative of a subculture that is alien to the one they prefer (Bergquist and Brock, 2008). The discarding of managerial “fads” is illustrative. Laggards are likely to assign this term to those who are promoting a “management improvement” or “organizational reform” strategy such as coaching.

There is yet another source of Laggard opposition to a new product or service. Their objections, in many instances, don’t arise from the flaws and threats associated with the innovation—after all we all appear to be Laggards with regard to certain new ideas that we consider ill-advised or over-sold. For many true Laggards, the issue is much more personal: these men and women were innovators themselves many years ago and were unsuccessful or burned-out with regard to this innovation. They led a major initiative looking into the reform of some outdated practice, but never saw this reform enacted. They championed the use of a major new technology, only to see their colleagues casually dismiss this technology as a gimmick. They devoted many hours to design of a new training program that was thrown out only four years after being installed in their organization. If a new initiative is successful than what does this say about the Laggard’s own past failure(s) as an innovator? An important lesson can be learned from the passionate objections voiced by Laggards: when we isolate or dismiss an innovator, then we not only lose this person’s ideas and potential leadership, but also create a Laggard who can be a persistent enemy of innovation for many years to come.

What should we do about those Laggards who oppose an innovation for very personal (and usually undisclosed) reasons? We can try to isolate them, but this is rarely effective. Alternatively, we can bring in Laggards as historian and advisor: “What can we learn from you about what happened many years ago? What can you teach us? If you were to plan for the successful enactment of this new professional coaching program what would you do?” Yes, this is a co-option strategy. Laggards will see right through it if this request isn’t legitimate and if one doesn’t seriously consider the advice they offer and listen patiently to the stories they wish to convey. There are certain repeated patterns (fractals) that are found in most organizations. We can identify these patterns with the assistance of our colleagues, who happen to be Laggards, and can effectively leverage these patterns to our advantage and to the advantage of the organizations in which we work and coach.

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  1. Gary B Cohen

    November 24, 2011 at 12:02 am

    William great insight I reposted your article on Board of School Superintendents website and CO2 Partners. I found it interesting how you connected the way each stage of diffusion of innovation shows up differently for a coach. I certainly have found this to be true just never connected with innovators model. Great stuff. Thank you for sharing.


  2. Anonymous

    November 30, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Gary: Thank you for your appreciative comments. I hope your School Superintendent colleagues find this to be of value. Obviously, the dynamics associated with the diffusion of educational innovations in our school systems are critical and coaching can be of great value to these hardworking superintendents. Bill Bergquist


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