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We’re All Early Adopters Now

With billions of people staying home, the innovation adoption curve looks more like a spike

Owen Williams
OneZero
Published in
4 min readApr 21, 2020

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Photo: Georgijevic/Getty Images

Doctor appointments are being rescheduled as video calls. The notoriously slow legal profession is adopting virtual technology. And it’s possible to obtain a marriage license in New York via a Zoom call. With more than half of the population under some form of lockdown, sectors have had to rapidly adopt new technology in order to continue serving their customers, fast-forwarding us into the future overnight.

This is not the normal pace of change. Generally, new technology is adopted in phases over the span of years, led by early adopters who try new apps and services as outlined by Everett Rogers’ bell curve. But this process is now being compressed from both sides: Businesses are adapting to the new reality on a daily basis, and consumers are far more willing to try new things — like online grocery shopping — because the alternatives are impossible or frustrating right now.

Take telehealth: In 2016, about 14% of physicians surveyed by the American Medical Association said they used telemedicine tools for virtual visits. By 2019, the use of these tools was twice as prevalent, with 28% of physicians saying the same. Now, the U.S. has lifted laws restricting the use of telehealth for Medicare patients, and telehealth has been cited as a major component of flattening the curve. Telehealth visits have exploded as they’ve gone from being seen as an experiment to an immediate necessity.

These leaps into the future will be treated differently than the tentative steps companies usually take with new technology. Introducing new changes like telehealth or online grocery ordering in normal times is usually relegated to “experiments” that come with fewer risks than pivoting the entire business. Covid-19, however, has changed the equation entirely: In many industries, the old way of doing business now causes bottlenecks or is simply impossible. Adopting new technology has become less risky than business as usual.

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Owen Williams
OneZero

Fascinated by how code and design is shaping the world. I write about the why behind tech news. Design Manager in Tech. https://twitter.com/ow