• Helen JM Potter

The Climate Emergency and Crossing the Chasm

Think about the behaviour change required to address the climate emergency.

That is, the behaviour of politicians, legislators, energy producers, industry leaders, private sector, public sector, non-profits, householders, in fact everyone, everywhere!

Dr Everett Roger's 'Diffusion of Innovation' curve describes how a given proportion of any population adopts an #innovation. This is important to understand in #culture change.
Figure 1: Dr Everett Roger's 'Diffusion of Innovation' curve - why we need to support the proactive 2.5%

Geoffrey A. Moore in his book Crossing the Chasm details the co-called 'adoption curve' and uses it to explain the take-up of high-tech products. The first 2.5% to buy are classed as innovators, the next 13.5% the early adopters. These two sectors represent the visionaries with a passion for the new idea. Over the other side of the 'chasm' are the early majority at 34%. The pragmatists, and the significant prize that allows the new product to tip into the mainstream.


The Climate Emergency is not a high-tech product. However, Moore’s theory holds true for disruptive innovations that force a significant behaviour change on the part of the customer. If we are to save humanity, this is what we need and fast! Therefore, it can be argued that the adoption curve is certainly applicable and perhaps helpful as we seek to tackle the significant behaviour change required of us all to address the climate emergency now and at pace.


Similarly, the Diffusion of Innovation (Dr Everett Rogers,1962) in Fig.1 follows the same pattern. At Eureka!Europe, we enable leaders to embed a culture of innovation into their organisations. This starts with a cross-section of the business being trained in the tools and techniques of an operating system (Innovation Engineering™) that establishes innovation as a business-wide system. This is a system in which everyone involved understands their role and how to contribute. We see the diffusion of innovation (Fig. 1) spread across the organisation in the same way, leading to a culture of never-ending innovation.

It's actually very helpful to accept laggards as a fact of life. In this way, we don’t waste energy.

Understanding the theory of adoption and the theory of diffusion helps you figure out what it takes to convince each segment of the need for change. It's actually very helpful to accept laggards as a fact of life. In this way, we don’t waste energy. We work with the willing, those who volunteer to be part of the change. The innovators and early adopters win hearts and minds and build a body of evidence that convinces the early majority who persuade the late majority.


So, back to the climate emergency. Who are the Innovators and Early Adopters? Are they in positions of leadership that can bring about change quickly? Or is it only activists and their supporters that make up that game-changing 2.5.% + 13.5% at the start of the adoption curve?


There is evidence ('Economic policy making in evolutionary perspective' 2011-09-20 by Ulrich Witt, Max-Planck-Institute for Research into Economic Systems) that suggests that the Official, Political and Economic elite are less likely to be Innovators and Early Adopters. The research compares Diffusion of Innovation Theory with Public Choice Theory and finds that the “Elites are often not innovators and innovations may have to be introduced by outsiders and propagated up a hierarchy to the top decision makers”. It seems those with power and influence are more likely to be resistant to change.

It seems those with power and influence are more likely to be resistant to change.

However, let’s end on an optimistic note. When driving culture change, even in complex organisations, once 10% of the business has unshakable belief, culture change does follow. Laggards either leave or are won over. Change happens faster working with the willing.


To cross the chasm, we need to urgently support the 2.5% doing their passionate best to bring about change from the bottom up.




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