The adventures of an analog engineer and digital storyteller who studies emerging networks and their impact on the great game of business.

Adopting new technologies is like a good-news/bad-news joke. The good news is that we have a new way of doing things. The bad news is that we have a new way of doing things.

While innovators and early adopters love to play with new technologies, companies who’ve built their businesses upon the limitations of old technologies will try valiantly to fend them off. It’s inevitable. Whenever their livelihoods are threatened by new technologies, industries will argue for the status quo.

But, there’s an odd flip-side to this self-centered view of new-tech adoption.  Just as established industries will fight to hold onto their competitive advantage, it’s common for some early adopters to fight to hold onto theirs.

It’s like the story of David vs. Goliath. David’s slingshot gives him a competitive advantage over the size and strength of Goliath. But what happens if Goliath decides to adopt the slingshot for himself? Is that unfair to David? Forgetting that technologies are free to be used by anyone, some early adopters seem to think so.

We’ve seen this situation play itself out many times in social media. When the main stream media started adopting podcasting, some early adopters cried foul. When Ashton Kutcher saw an opportunity to converse with his fans via Twitter, many early adopters started sounding like cranky old men screaming at the neighborhood kids to get off their lawns.

And, as it always does, history has repeated itself again. No longer an obscure little crowdfunding site, Kickstarter has hit critical mass as everyone and their grandma can see it as a viable way to fund a project. While Kickstarter remained an obscure website that funded little indie-art films, early adopters could place their projects in front of small, dedicated audiences of other early adopters. However, once Kickstarter projects entered the big leagues, producing millions of dollars for ideas such as the Elevator Dock, DoubleFine Adventure, Pebble, or OUYA, that’s when it drew the attention of others…such as celebrities.

Coming on of the heels of the successful Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign, producer/actor Zach Braff decided to launch his own Kickstarter campaign called Wish I Was Here. Braff exceeded his $2 million goal in four days and with nine days left in the campaign, 38,000 people have already pledged $2.6 million.

It didn’t take too long for the Davids to start complaining that Goliath had dared to use a slingshot, thus giving the actor unfair advantage over less-famous competitors.

Putting aside the hypocrisy of the argument, the Davids don’t understand that the more people that are exposed to Kickstarter, the larger the potential base is to market new projects to. Sure celebrities have larger audiences to draw from, but at the same time, they draw large numbers of new members into a growing crowdfunding ecosystem. Paraphrasing one of my favorite authors, Paul Zane Pilzer, celebrities aren’t taking a large slice of a fixed pie. By their very involvement, they are helping the crowdfunding community “…grow a bigger pie.”

Innovators and early adopters bring new technologies into the world. But at a certain point, they must act like parents and let their children go, thus allowing new technologies to finish the creative destruction for which they were born. And whether early adopters like it or not, that creative destruction must change everyone, not just a select few.

And that’s a good thing.

Image Credit: PuddlesMcGee under Creative Commons

Filed under: Disruptive Tech

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