Deep down, you’re an innovator. You’re not afraid to buck the status quo, branch off on your own and follow big ideas. But when it comes to technology, you prefer not to be a trailblazer. After all, while new tools and gadgets are cool, being an early adopter has its risks.
We get it—you’re being smart, not stingy. It’s better to watch your competition experiment with new technology first so, when they fail, you can learn from their mistakes.
But what happens when they don’t fail?
Mark Zuckerberg once said, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”
In other words, for companies that still scrape by on outdated, mediocre-grade tech, the end is nigh. The breakneck evolution of workplace tech means becoming an early adopter is the difference between barely surviving and successfully thriving.
If a business will not or cannot evolve alongside market trends, it will lose its most valuable employees, its reputation in the industry and its most loyal customers. But the more adaptable an organization, the more relevant and advanced it becomes, and the more resilient it becomes in the face of competition.
Still not convinced? These six things may persuade you otherwise:
1. Don’t just be the first, be the best. Early adoption of technology not only proves and exercises your adaptability, it also gives your organization complete creative freedom to experiment and revolutionize use cases before the technology becomes mainstream, trendy and (from a competitive standpoint)—stale.
2. Become the expert. Along these same lines, you also get to be among the first to publish content on the subject, like blogs, how-to’s and case studies. Thought leadership is critical to gaining traction in the market and attracting attention. Not only from cohorts, community members and consumers, but also from the creators of the technology who may just have the connections you want and need to excel and become an industry frontrunner.
3. Score free promotion. The most influential people on the Web are those pioneering today’s hottest startups. We’re talking Uber, Airbnb, DropBox, Snapchat, Square, Pinterest, Spotify, Jawbone … and the businesses that recognized their value early on frequently get a free ride on the press express.
Take Starbucks, Best Buy and Red Bull, for example. They recognized the value in Twitter’s Promoted Tweet before the platform gripped the market. When Promoted Tweets broke headlines, guess who got to premier as examples of the ad format? Six years later, and these brands still get frequent (and free) mention in articles and other media about Promoted Tweets.
4. Lead the followers. Exposure doesn’t stop with the press. Early adopters and experimenters of technology often become key focal points or factual supports for case studies that get referenced in conferences and articles across the Web. In other words, they become an integral part of the story used to educate future adopters.
5. Help make it better. When organizations get in with new technology at the ground level, they also benefit from greater provider support and collaboration before popularity creates too much utilization for them to personally attend to each user. This one-on-one relationship equates to greater understanding about the product, more customized training and integration, and if you’re really lucky—a lucrative partnership.
6. Get in with the right crowd. Despite the diversity of their industries, today’s (and tomorrow’s) hot new startups actually form a tight inner circle; one that shares many of the same investors, friends and brand relationships. Get in with them and exposure isn’t the only opportunity to which you’ll gain access. We’re talking business advice, connections to investors and ultimately—a launchpad for greater success.
The fact remains, we aren’t just talking about buying the latest $5 wonder app. We’re talking about the company-wide adoption of groundbreaking technology in an effort to eclipse competition and deliver a product or service like no one else—technologies like integrated workplace management software (IWMS), Internet of Things (IoT), and sophisticated data management systems. The financial stakes are much higher and your organization’s reputation is on the line.
So, how are the most successful early adopters handling it?
Ben Huh, founder and CEO of The Cheezburger Network, recommends personally investing in new technology to experiment with it first. If the technology makes sense for your overall business strategy, budget and goals, take it company-wide.
Standard Life, a financial services company that became an early adopter of computer software technology, warns fellow trailblazers to roll out technology in stages. This is especially true when technology will largely impact business function across multiple departments.
Customized training is critical to success during the early adoption of technology. And should be completed long before deployment to ensure all employees understand how to use the new technology before the company relies on it to carry out key business functions.
According to a Harvard Business study, the early adoption of new technologies leads to better business outcomes, including revenue growth and greater profit margins.
Adaptation is survival. Early adoption is innovation. Your organization needs both to stay ahead of the curve. Remember that with great risk comes great reward, and early adoption of technology might just be your ticket to the top.
Editor's Note: This post was previously published on Inc.com and has been republished here with permission.