When a vehicle is parked, it generates zero “drag”.  Essentially, drag is the resistance (caused by air) that is created as a vehicle gains speed and “pushes” against it.  Zero velocity (parked) = zero drag.  Following the of the laws of physics, drag increases at a faster rate than velocity (speed).  If you stick your arm out the window when a car is traveling 70 mph, you will feel 4 times the resistance as when you stick your arm out at 35 mph.  And the more resistance your vehicle generates, the more horsepower it must have and the more fuel it will consume trying to maintain your target speed.

Similarly, when a large-scale New Way initiative is “parked”, it generates little, if any, drag.  However, as it gains velocity, it begins to create drag–and the faster the initiative is driven, naturally, the more drag it creates.  With respect to implementing a New Way initiative, increasing  drag translates to increasing the size of  “barriers to adoption” and the faster the initiative is driven, the more formidable these barriers become.


Throughout their lifecycles, all large-scale  initiatives encounter countless barriers that must be navigated over, around, or through.  Whenever I am called in to help clear the road of obstacles like the one to the left and work with the team to get the initiative back on track, I ask “did the barrier come as a surprise  or was it expected?”  The answer I often hear is that it wasn’t expected; but it wasn’t exactly a surprise either.   In the end, the problem isn’t about the surprise factor associated these large barriers–the problem is that these obvious barriers weren’t called out during the early planning sessions as risk factors to be neutralized or mitigated in a thoughtful and deliberate way.


In the world of automotive engineering, tests have shown that the aerodynamic design of a vehicle is responsible for 60% of a vehicle’s drag.  Similarly, Everett Rogers  50+ years of research revealed that over 50%  of the variation in any given initiative’s adoption rate can be explained by the way Target Adopters perceive a handful of common-sense factors (Complexity, Advantage, and Compatibility are the main ones).  Analysis of stalled initiatives often reveal that one or more of these three factors were either misunderstood, discounted, or completely overlooked by the design and implementation teams.


Few companies have the time or inclination to research the hundreds of possible barriers to adoption that could spring up.   However, given the time, talent, and treasure required to implement a large-scale initiative, it certainly makes sense to identify  the top 7 barriers to adoption and develop special tactics to mitigate their effect.


Whether  you are in the planning stages   or in the middle of initiating your initiative, it is never too late to conduct an objective assessment of the Initiative, the Target Adopters,  Sponsors, etc.

Like a wind tunnel test, we are going to call out which specific areas of  the Initiative should be observed. For purposes of this post, we will focus our attention on the Target Adopters–particularly their perceptions toward the Initiative with respect to:

  • Perceived Complexity of the Initiative
  • Perceived Advantages of the Initiative
  • Perceived Compatibility of the Initiative


  • Accessibility/Complexity of the New Way -  how hard or easy it is to understand, learn, and apply new behaviors under the New Way.   (Accessible = faster adoption; Complex = slower adoption)
  • Advantage of the New Way - the degree to which Target adopters perceive the New Way as  faster, easier, more consistent, less wasteful, better for their careers, etc. ( higher Advantage = faster adoption; lower Advantage = slower adoption)
  • Compatibility of the New Way - the degree to which the New Way meshes with current practices, beliefs, norms, and assumptions. ( more Compatibility = faster adoption; less Compatibility = slower adoption )

Assume you just objectively interviewed, polled, and/or surveyed a representative sample of Target Adopters and the comments below surfaced consistently across the board.  (Further, in the interest of time, assume that the incidence rate for each response was was equal across all Target Adopter groups).

Please quickly acquaint yourself with each comments below and answer the 3 questions that follow:

  • The software doesn’t work like it is supposed to
  • The system crashes often or it is too slow
  • It takes longer and requires more effort than the old way
  • I have difficulty using the technology
  • Corporate takes too long to answer my questions
  • I’m not a Phd
  • I have difficulty learning the new technology
  • Went through the training but didn’t learn anything
  • Was taking too much time to learn so I went back to the old way
  • It takes me away from my other duties which are more important

Question 1:  One Target Adopter perception dominates this list–which is it?  

Answer:  “Complexity” (it shows up 5 out of 10 times and could be causal to several other perceptions).

Question 2:  How would you address this speed of adoption barrier?

Answer:    “Flatten the Learning Curve”- i.e. take action to 1) align the Target Adopters with the learning methods and/or 2) figure out how to alter the learning methods to better align with the Target Adopters.

Question 3:  If you decided to take a “wait and see approach” instead of taking immediate action, what might you expect to happen? 

Answer:  The Initiative could go into a “stall”.


The purpose of this post was to familiarize you with the importance and relative ease with which you and your team can, if you know what you are looking for, pro-actively identify Speed-of-Adopion barriers and mitigate their effects.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment below or email me at mwoods@changeiscertain.com

Thank you for your time and good luck with your New Ways initiative.



Innovation Attributes from:
Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York: Free Press.
Drag Coefficients: